Retail Video Surveillance: Are You Upping Your Competitive Advantage?

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The ideal solution for busy retailers is a video surveillance solution that’s not only integrated with their point-of-sale (POS) system but is also custom-designed to automatically generate daily exception reports that zero-in on potentially suspicious transactions.

Retail Video Surveillance: Are You Upping Your Competitive Advantage?

The most typical motivation for deploying video surveillance in the retail industry is to support loss prevention efforts, and so it should be with global shrinkage in the industry estimated at $118 billion, or 1.7 percent of annual sales.

The problem, though, is that no owner or district manager in the retail industry has the time to sit for hours reviewing archived video to look for shoplifting, internal theft and other criminal incidents. They are busy doing everything else. If their video surveillance system isn’t easy to use and doesn’t do some of the work for them, they won’t bother to use it and potentially valuable video evidence will just sit there.

The ideal solution for busy retailers is a video surveillance solution that’s not only integrated with their point-of-sale (POS) system but is also custom-designed to automatically generate daily exception reports that zero-in on potentially suspicious transactions. The reports, complete with links to video and corresponding transaction details, can be quickly reviewed for evidence of POS fraud, leaving an owner or district manager to get on with the rest of their day.

Keeping it Simple

Retailers, for example, may choose to see all no-sales or voids, transactions with a total value of 50 cents or less, or all transactions with items deleted, which could be indicative of sweethearting or cashier fraud. They can review the report details, including the store number, the name of the cashier and the time of the transaction. They can then look at an image of the event, and click through to watch the actual video clip if their suspicion is aroused. It’s fast, simple and effective.

Integrating other advanced technologies, like video analytics, adds further capabilities. By using a tripwire analytic on a back door in a restaurant, for example, a retailer can quickly review still images corresponding to each time that door opened. They may find that an employee is taking a dozen smoke breaks during a single shift, or a kitchen helper has walked out with a few bottles of vintage wine. With an exception reporting tool, the ‘door open’ images can be downloaded to a central server overnight to avoid clogging up the retailer’s network during business hours. They can also be incorporated into a report accessible through any web browser, allowing an owner or district manager to quickly review the events at home, on the road or in the office.

Similarly, an analytic used on a surveillance camera installed at a checkout counter can alert retailers to transactions with no customer present – another suspicious occurrence. These are great examples of how information from disparate business systems, in this case POS transaction and video analytic data, can be integrated to alert retailers to customized situations that may be of interest.

Enhancing Your Day-to-Day

Catching losses from theft clearly impacts a retailer’s bottom line. In addition, many store owners and managers are discovering that video surveillance can also be used to improve overall store performance. Offering a bird’s eye view into tens or hundreds of stores, video surveillance can serve as a powerful store auditing tool – helping drive profits through enhanced operations.

Retailers know how they want their stores run. They know through research, analysis and best practices what works and what doesn’t. The problem is how to enforce best practices and policies relating to product placement, merchandising and customer service across multiple locations.

Using secret shoppers for store audits is one way to find out if stores are adhering to company standards, but secret shoppers are only going to show up once every few months. Furthermore, staff is often given a heads up, so everyone is on their best behavior. Leveraging a video surveillance system that’s already there for security and loss prevention purposes is far more effective, enabling retailers to remotely monitor dozens or hundreds of stores in just minutes.

But, once again, the system has to be easy or it isn’t going to be used. One approach includes setting up a daily report populated with images captured every 15 minutes from a select number of cameras during a store’s operating hours. Armed with such a report, retailers can easily check on whether a store opened and closed at the correct time and get a snapshot of customer traffic throughout the day. They can see if the shelves were stocked, if the signage was up, and if the floor was clean. And what about the basket of fresh fruit and juice that’s supposed to be next to the cash register as per the coffee shop chain’s upsell strategy?

All of this can be ascertained in one 15-minute scan of images in a handy report available every day. This is where a video surveillance system purchased initially for security and loss prevention becomes a powerful operational tool.

Valuable Insights

One quick serve restaurant chain I know of is now using its video surveillance system primarily for operational purposes. The system still fulfills a loss prevention role as well, but very quickly after it was deployed, shrinkage plunged, and franchise owners discovered that they didn’t have to drive to every location to see if the donut and muffin display case was full, if spills were being cleaned up quickly, or if health and safety standards were being adhered to.

>By having more eyes, more often, on a geographically dispersed chain of stores, retailers can make sure that their stores are shipshape and set up to maximize revenue.

Video surveillance can also help retailers improve customer service by making sure that staffing levels are appropriate. A person counting analytic on a camera monitoring a store’s entrance can provide a history of customer traffic, while a queue monitoring analytic at the checkout can produce an alert when a customer lineup exceeds a predefined limit.

Using this data to plan staffing levels allows retailers to optimize their resources. More importantly, it means that customers are not waiting in long lineups at the register and possibly abandoning their intended purchases out of frustration.

Smart retailers today are taking their video surveillance systems far beyond security. By adopting the latest technologies and integrating video with POS and other business systems, they are pinpointing the most relevant information available to them to increase sales and top line revenues.

If you’re a retailer ready to get more from your video solution, the best approach is to start with a trial in one store and assess the results. Chances are, you’ll find shrink you weren’t even aware of, plus a host of opportunities to fine-tune your operations to the benefit of your employees and customers.

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