Biometrics is an increasingly pervasive technology that is being leveraged by the marketing industry in new and startling ways.
Normally associated with security and identity verification, biometrics commonly refers to fingerprinting, iris scanning and voice or facial recognition. The technology is capturing even more subtle individual qualities and behaviours for the purposes of targeted marketing.
Biometrics is changing how marketing researchers conduct focus groups. Sensors can measure subtle changes in heart rate, eye movement, facial expressions and galvanic skin response (GSR) in response to an advertisement, web page or product. These involuntary and constantly fluctuating human reactions to stimuli can tell more about how people really feel than verbal responses.
Marketing has taken biometrics even further with the use of neurological scans of subjects as they are exposed to different stimuli. In fact marketing firms exist that offer precisely this service, coining the terms “neuromarketing” and “neuroanalytics.” Some claim in their branding to be able to “tap into human motivation and desire” and “make the subconscious conscious.”
Financial institutions have started to profile customers based on what is termed “behavioural biometrics”. This refers to the unique ways a user presses, scrolls, types on a phone screen or keyboard and even the angle at which they hold their devices as they use websites and apps.
Facial recognition software will soon have the ability to interpret people’s expressions as well as identities. As smart city technology becomes more ubiquitous, data from people’s phones, smartwatches and fitness bands could be collected. Placement advertising can be personally target not only according to a person’s profile but also to their “upbeat self” or “unhappy self.”
Biometric tools are potentially problematic from a privacy standpoint. How transparent companies will be as they access our data is yet to be known. Nevertheless the field of biometrics offers huge potential for leverage by marketing and advertising firms, as well as other entities.