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Selfies: Changing the “Face” of Retail

Selfies are everywhere. From selfie sticks to photo editing applications, people are looking for new and better ways to take photos of themselves. At the same time, retailers are creatively taking advantage of our selfie obsession.

Companies such as Crest and Freshii have been gathering market research from consumer selfies through apps like Pay Your Selfie. Pay Your Selfie allows users to earn cash rewards by posting selfies of themselves accomplishing various “tasks.” The selfies aren’t published (although they can be made public), instead they are sold to retailers for a set fee per image, with a portion of those funds being used to pay the consumer. We personally downloaded the app, just to see how intrusive this market research was. Not surprisingly, some tasks were specific and some were more general. For instance, on the day that we downloaded the app, we could get paid $1.00 to take a selfie with food we had ordered from Freshii, or we could get paid $0.25 to take a selfie with a coffee maker (and give any major retailer an insight into my coffee preferences).

A similar app, Mobilizr, pays consumers for posting selfies, but the compensation is based on the amount of traction the selfie gets. Retail companies purchase plans with Mobilizr to run campaigns for their brand based on how many brand ambassadors they would like to hire. The consumer posts a selfie showing the brand logo and gets paid $0.03 for every “like,” “share,” or comment received. Stylinity allows fashion bloggers to share selfies of their outfits, and earn money doing so. Once a blogger posts an outfit, he or she earns points for every person who reacts positively to the outfit and earns a commission for any item in the outfit that is sold from the link that he or she posted. The commission amounts vary, but there are currently over 180 retailers who have linked their products to Stylinity.

Soon, however, selfies won’t just be for the fashionistas. Several companies like Mastercard and Amazon have been investing heavily in facial recognition software. The goal is to use a selfie as a form of identification to prevent credit and debit card fraud. Mastercard has already rolled out the project in Silicon Valley- a consumer first takes a selfie to establish his identity. When that customer uses Mastercard’s Identity Check App to make a purchase online, another selfie is taken and compared to the original. Amazon has taken this idea to a further level, requiring that the selfie be interactive, so as to deter criminals from using a static photo of a person. If the facial recognition software is not satisfied with a customer’s identity, it can require the person to blink, wink or frown.

So far, Mastercard and Amazon have only been able to employ these security measures online. Google is working to change that via its “Hands Free” system. The consumer sets up a Google account containing their picture. At the store, they tell the cashier that they want to “pay with Google.” Then, one of two things will happen: (i) the retailer’s cash register will connect with the consumer’s phone, display the photo, and the cashier confirms the identity of the consumer, or (ii) the retailer has installed a facial recognition camera that will scan the consumer’s face and verify their identity based on their account photo. This costly system has been implemented in select McDonalds and Papa John’s locations in San Francisco, but may migrate to the rest of the country if retailers are willing (or pressured) to purchase the necessary software.

Whether you love them or hate them, selfies are shaping the current landscape of retail. As consumers look to make money from their selfies, retailers use them as a direct method of conducting market research, and financial institutions hope to use them to prevent fraud (and potentially avoid fraud liability). While it is still unclear what new role selfies might play in retail in the future, selfies are likely here to stay.

Related topics: Retail, Technology