Are you thinking omni-channel or “omni-chance”? Here are 3 areas for your security team to review
- By John Carter
- Jun 01, 2017
While many security teams at retailers are concerned
about the potential for a big data
breach, everyday security threats, like social
engineering and shoplifting, are heightened in
a world of omni-channel retail. While unfortunately
these physical security threats are more predictable than a data
breach, the good news is that predictability is exactly what them more
manageable with the right tools and intelligence.
The common thread between these threats is understanding and controlling who has access to what assets and data. Knowing what
needs protecting is half the battle. There are three areas worth revisiting
in light of the latest threats and available technology solutions
to ensure that your company is best protecting people, assets,
and the bottom line. These three areas are connected: keyless access
control, sensors across the omni-channel landscape and optimizing
Rethink the Brass Keys with
Intelligent Access Control
With the advancement of tools and sensors, one of the most underused
areas for retail is access control. Steve Lindsey, a veteran of retail
security who managed physical security at Wal-Mart for more than
30 years, understands better than anyone the need for these tools.
Lindsey recently visited a big box store and had a common experience:
purchasing a gift card that understandably was under lock and
key. It took a trusted employee several minutes, manager approval,
and a patient customer, to complete the transaction. Naturally, Lindsey
had some questions about how they manage access to important
assets. “Do you trust this employee?” he asked the manager with the
brass keys. “Of course,” the manager said, then Lindsey asked him
why the employee couldn’t have access to unlock the gift card he was
trying to buy, and the reality is that physical possession of brass keys
supersedes employee experience and trust.
The challenge with brass keys is compounded by everyday life:
the inconvenience when someone accidentally brings them home, or
the holder of the keys is busy and customers are left waiting. Surely
technology can help us overcome this, and it has with access control,
but why aren’t retailers embracing better solutions?
Lindsey has seen some examples of retailers that offer the ideal
experience: you’re in a store, need access to an item behind lock
and key, and an employee opens the display case with the tap of a
badge or the swipe of a finger. This experience is less common than it should be, and he is still surprised by the reluctance of retailers to
move to modern access control methods, with everyday card keys or
biometric readers that allow trusted employees to do their jobs faster
and more efficiently.
“It is time for retailers to rethink the brass keys,” Lindsey said.
“Better access control improves the customer experience with faster
turnaround, and increases employee productivity. The cost of copying
keys can reach tens of thousands of dollars annually for a large
retailer—that alone should motivate these locations to make a change
to keyless access control.”
The use case for keyless access extends beyond the traditional
brick and mortar locations to employee areas, warehouses, lockers,
and anywhere that people and merchandise are coming and going.
In our omni-channel world, it’s about having flexible access to
align with flexible logistics. The advancement of access control when
implemented at scale increases transparency and accountability for
people and inventory.
Put Sensors to Work Across Channels
“Omni-channel brings interesting opportunities and risks to physical
security teams”, said Clayton Brown, product manager at ReconaSense,
a proactive situational awareness platform.
A recent report from McKinsey and Company notes that “In several
sectors, ‘click and collect’ is proving a popular and increasingly
efficient means of serving the customer. More than 50 percent of
Walmart’s online sales and around 40 percent of Best Buy’s already
are picked up in stores—a multichannel mind-set must be embedded
in the store design and in employees’ new ways of working.”
Like the challenge of protecting assets with better access control,
the flexibility of omni-channel means that for retailers to be successful,
inventory is dispersed. So tracking it, and reducing shrink, is
more complex and more important than ever.
At the same time, every retailer’s goal is to take the customer experience
across channels to make shopping seamless and relevant. IoT
devices that are in use today, including beacons for real-time offers
and sensors to optimize store layout, are just some of the technologies
that could also be leveraged for physical security.
“What retailers are not doing yet is looking at every single connected
sensor as an input to your physical security posture. We look
at each one of these devices as giving us contextual clues to detect
potential theft and other threats before an incident takes place,”
Today customers can receive their order myriad ways: order online
and pick up in store, retrieve from a locker, or have their order delivered
at home through a network of contract drivers. The convenience
of these options means a better customer experience with increased
risk to you: your chance of experiencing theft, less employee accountability,
and variance across your supply chain increase greatly.
To mitigate the risks that these options bring, Brown suggests rethinking
the intent of each IoT sensor.
“It’s time to look beyond how these connected sensors were
meant to be used to see how they can be optimally used,” Brown
said. “Every place from your social media account, to your parking
lot, distribution center, and delivery drivers offer clues about security
of your entire operation. Putting these patterns together puts your
security team in control.”
Getting to that point will accelerate the value that you will derive
from sensors. McKinsey said, “Interoperability between IoT systems is critically important to capturing
maximum value; on average, interoperability
is required for 40 percent of potential value
across IoT applications and by nearly 60 percent
in some settings.”2
For retail security teams to get the most
out of technology investments, it’s going to
take partnership across departments, and the
right platform to make these devices talk to
each other, and work together, for you.
Check Your Case
Case management is one of the most important
tools for security teams to communicate
about cross-site threats. But many retailers
lack the insight and shared resources to
make the most of this information. There is
potential with shared information and better
case management. Today, cases are disparate
and each holds clues to security threats like
crime rings, but there is no way to correlate
this information across multiple sites. It’s
time for this valuable information to be more
accessible and actionable.
The combination of centralized access
control and omni-channel sensor information
means that when cases are open they
are automatically more informative. With a
platform that pulls in big data from across
IoT sensors, and allows for centralized case
management, patterns and predictors of
crime are more easily identified, so retailers
can get ahead of threats.
The technology to enable more sophisticated
case management exists today,
which is the great news. Now it’s time for
the cutting-edge retailers to start testing the
limits of the latest solutions available that
integrate big data from across sensors and
produce intelligent case management outputs.
The power of the technology comes
when you use it in combination with access
control and a platform approach to sensor
management to truly stop physical security
threats in their tracks.
Moving Away from Chance
Retail today is complicated, as is physical
security, and your business needs to look at
the next strategic steps to shift from where
you are today to more sophisticated analysis
and tools. McKinsey notes that “capturing
the full potential of IoT applications will
require innovation in technologies and business
models, as well as investment in new capabilities
Industry experts agree. Lindsey emphasizes
that for retailers to move forward.
“It’s time to think broadly rather than
siloed in physical security lanes,” Lindsey
said. “The Internet of Things is a huge opportunity
for security teams, and it’s exciting
to see the new tools available to help physical
security teams move to the next generation.”
Improvements in the three areas of keyless
access control, omni-channel sensors,
and optimized case management are possible
today with the latest tools and a willingness
to try a new platform.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Security Today.