Enhancing the Customer Experience

Primary security mission is keeping stores safe and shrink low

Consumers’ expectations about their shopping experience at brickand- mortar, retail stores are changing. Mobile devices allow consumers to find any information they need with just a few clicks of a button, and this sense of immediacy has spread to how they shop.

In response, retailers are scrambling to meet these new demands, and innovations in technology have allowed them to start leveraging newer tactics to elevate retail performance and better meet customer needs. In many instances, it may surprise some to hear that these new “best practices” come from a non-traditional source—the loss prevention (LP) team.

Evolving Security Technologies

Keeping stores safe and shrink low has been and always will be a primary focus of security and LP teams, but retail security solutions have evolved to help make retailers smarter about how their store is operating. Security providers, technology manufacturers and integrators understand retail security solutions are now more comprehensive, and, when leveraged correctly, can help do much more. Store operations teams are turning to LP leads to determine how to use security solutions to understand traffic patterns and achieve better business goals.

For retailers, this means they can gain higher value and return on investment (ROI) on traditional security spends, which can mean a growing top line and a healthier bottom line. Below are some of the main developments in the industry that have prompted these changes, and have encouraged growth and better efficiency in areas where there previously may not have been:

Smart devices. Adding to the “anytime, anywhere” access customers have now come to expect, this increase in immediacy for transactions and in-store experiences has forced retailers to become smarter about how they help customers shop in-store. That’s where an integrated security solution can come into play and add value.

Video. Once thought of as only a security solution, it has now become a multiuse tool that can equip retailers with information to make decisions based on video analytics and shopper intelligence tools. This development has pushed the security industry into more of a partner role with merchandising and marketing, where all teams can use video to track shopper behaviors, dwell times and store shopping patterns, and then make alterations accordingly.

Mobility. Coupled with omni-channel retailing, the direction the retail industry is headed is pretty clear. One of the biggest impacts these trends have had on the retail industry is that customers are not always making decisions in the retail store itself.

The lines are blurring between brick-and-mortar, online and mobile shopping. For example, consumers are doing research on products they want to buy as they shop online and then may choose to go to a store to try out, try on or pick up in-store. If a specific product isn’t available when they arrive, they may become frustrated and choose not to purchase that item at all.

In order to keep customers happy, retailers can install effective inventory accuracy solutions, such as RFID, that can help provide item-level visibility of all items in a retail store’s inventory, from stock room to sales floor. Additionally, source tagging can help retailers keep track of merchandise from the beginning, since products are tagged right at the point of manufacture or packaging. By implementing source tagging and RFID along with other loss prevention methods, retailers are better equipped to solve both shrink and store performance challenges.

Mobile POS. Patterns have been altered, making it easier for customers to purchase products from anywhere in the store, and has created a security risk for retailers that wasn’t there before. Retailers want to make sure their products are tagged, but also need to provide their customers with the quickand- easy service they want.

A specific device that some retailers have started implementing is a mobile, handheld electronic article surveillance (EAS) deactivator that enables employees to easily deactivate Acousto- Magnetic (AM) EAS labels during the barcode scanning process. With buying patterns now more flexible, a store’s staff and technology solutions must follow suit. Having a way to deactivate anti-theft tags can enhance the mobile point-of-sale experience for the customers, and allow retailers to have security tags on important products.

The mobile trend hasn’t only been driven by consumers. Mobile devices have allowed the security teams at retail stores to maximize efficiencies by monitoring stores at any time, from any location. This changes the game for everybody in retail.

Data as Actionable Business Intelligence

All of these solutions provide retailers with data that is rich in information about their customers. While the collection of data is great, it comes down to how retailers can turn this wealth of data into actionable business intelligence.

To do so, some retail security teams have implemented cloud-hosted video or hosted access. These robust systems allow retailers to capture, save and export video segments that can offer key insight into specific issues like what time of day most incidents occur, whether employees are complying with corporate policies or if certain times of the day require more staff support. In the end, having more data is one thing, but turning that big data into insight that can help improve customer experiences and business operations relies on being highly efficient on how to store, access, disseminate and analyze it. The cloud makes that all possible.

Managing data and becoming more in tune with customer experiences and how to improve those experiences is a role shared by everybody involved in a retail store—from the loss prevention team to sales associates. Figuring out how to best use these newer technologies and understanding how data can turn into business intelligence is the key to success for any retailer.

It is safe to say that customers, retailers and technology are all getting smarter, moving faster and working more cohesively as the retail ecosystem continues to evolve; therefore, working with a security systems integrator can help determine which solutions make the most sense for a certain store or across an enterprise.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Security Today.

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