Big Data Deal
Video management systems offer a powerful, combined platform for security and business intelligence
- By Jeff Karnes
- Jun 01, 2016
From cyber attacks and organized retail crime, to the explosive growth
of omni-channel and digital currencies, there is no shortage of new
challenges facing retailers today. As store management develops
strategies to address these trends, they must also continue to prevent
everyday losses and ensure a safe store environment for customers
From a single store location to multinational enterprises, surveillance systems
have become prevalent in addressing loss prevention. While the majority of these
systems were originally installed to improve security, there has been a recent push
by many retailers to leverage the video from surveillance systems to support key
business strategies aimed at addressing today’s top retail trends. The C-suite has
seen the enormous potential in “doing more” with all of the unstructured data
being collected every day by their security systems, and surveillance video is now
part of the “big data” trend.
LEVERAGING VIDEO DATA FOR IMPROVED SECURITY
This corporate hunger for business intelligence means that the traditional store
and record system is becoming much less useful not only within security but across
the organization. Today’s surveillance systems are increasingly being tasked with
delivering more than improved security, and therefore need a way to analyze a
large amount of video and provide “actionable” intelligence that can help businesses
improve the bottom line.
Deploying an enterprise-wide VMS empowers organizations to leverage a
single platform for recording, streaming, viewing, searching and analyzing video
from any number of surveillance cameras for both security and business intelligence
From a security perspective, a VMS solution that offers retailers powerful
search capabilities can help find relevant information and evidence in just minutes,
instead of hours, days and weeks, dramatically reducing the time it takes investigation
teams to prevent or prosecute crimes. Enterprise-wide VMS solutions can also
help build stronger cases for law enforcement by organizing video and documents
into a centralized online case folder that can be accessed by assigned employees
and law enforcement officials, significantly accelerating the investigation process.
An enterprise VMS can also include centralized features that offer the ability to manage and search videos across hundreds of locations globally, configure cameras
remotely and receive alerts when any equipment is down.
Furthermore, a VMS that includes video analytics can greatly improve retailers’
ability to find evidence faster, saving time and money. Here are just a few examples
of powerful analytics for retail security.
LICENSE PLATE RECOGNITION (LPR)
Recent headlines of workplace violence and shootings outside retail locations have
increased the priority for retailers to secure external store areas such as parking
lots as well as inside the store itself. LPR analytics improve general surveillance
by cataloging license plate information from parking lots, drive-up windows and
entry gates, allowing security teams to search quickly and find evidence on vehiclerelated
activity. Using this technology, stores can identify license plates that correspond
to criminal activity.
One of the newer types of analytics on the market enables security managers to
monitor dwell time or loitering activity. Dwell analytics can be used across a variety
of industries to find evidence of loitering and secure remote or unattended
areas that might be used for illegal activity. The analytics can automatically send
an alert when anyone is seen loitering in these areas so that security management
can examine the situation.
For retail organizations, a facial surveillance analytic can capture, index and catalog
faces and any video associated with them. This solution helps identify shoplifters,
return fraud, and employee fraud such as internal theft and “sweet-hearting”
by integrating visual intelligence with point-of-sale (POS) and exception-based
reporting (EBR) systems. Facial surveillance can also reduce employee time-clock
theft or help identify employees who are not following company-mandated procedures,
saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
MOTION DETECTION AND OBJECT TRACKING
Motion detection and advanced object tracking analytics help protect the perimeter
of a store. In this case, analytics can generate an alert if there is movement
across the perimeter such as a gate, fence or doorway. A more specific trip wire
analytic can also create an alert anytime someone enters a specific area. For example,
a jewelry store can use motion detection to quickly search for video activity
in front of a display case to find evidence of theft from that specific case.
VIDEO ANALYTICS FOR BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
From a business perspective, the same VMS solution used for security can extract
powerful, actionable intelligence and customer insights from the video being
captured for surveillance. This can help brick-and-mortar retailers better understand
their customers and capture shopper information similar to how their online
counterparts are able to measuring e-commerce and digital activity. By effectively
analyzing this data with various video analytics, businesses can develop meaningful
insights for decision-makers in marketing, operations and customer service.
Here are five ways video analytics are helping retailers take advantage of some
of the top retail trends in 2016.
Multi-channel shopping experience. As the connected store becomes a reality,
understanding customer behavior in stores will be increasingly important in driving
higher conversion rates in a multi-channel shopping experience. Detailed data
on how and where customers are shopping will be key for CMOs to analyze marketing
program effectiveness and optimize marketing budgets.
Motion detection analytics can be used to create heat maps that illustrate the
flow of customer traffic in retail locations. This allows merchandising teams to
observe actual areas of shopper interest based on traffic density. By seeing where
shoppers go most often, merchandisers can refine store layouts and visual merchandising
to maximize conversion and make it easier for shoppers to find what
they are looking for, improving the customer experience. Heat maps can also identify
opportunities to charge more for vendors who want premier placement in high
Innovative new store environments. As e-commerce volumes grow, the role of
the retail store is changing. “From in-store design studios and personal shopping
assistants to coffee and tea bars, retailers are offering a comprehensive experience,
evolving into something sleeker, more customized and increasingly attuned
to shoppers’ expectations of what the in-store experience should be,” according to
Steve Barr, PwC U.S. Retail & Consumer Practice Leader.
Consumers are empowered by technology to browse online before entering a
store, risking a loss of foot traffic. By creating a different type of in-store experience,
retailers can recapture lost traffic and give shoppers new and different experiences
they may not get online.
By adding video analytics to store surveillance systems, retailers can measure
store traffic, for example, how many people are making their way into the store,
to assess how attractive the store environment is to shoppers. Demographic video
analytics can be used to capture the age and gender of customers entering a retail
location to help determine which local promotions drive the desired store traffic.
This type of data can directly inform marketing strategy with accurate information
about store traffic patterns, customers’ reaction to displays, coupon use, and
similar day-to-day activity.
Optimized staffing levels. Research shows that during peak traffic times, conversion
rates tend to drop. Retailers should optimize staffing for peak traffic times
not just peak sales periods. Video analytics (in particular queue and dwell time
analysis) can provide the answers retailers need in order to calculate the appropriate
Queue management analytics alert and capture queue line lengths based on a
minimum threshold, time of day, or marketing event, providing real-time data on
customer lines and cashier availability for a variety of industries dependent on
This data can help managers identify choke points and traffic flow patterns, optimize staffing, increase store operational efficiency, improve sales performance
and customer satisfaction.
Understanding traffic levels can also provide insight for store real estate teams
to evaluate sales per square foot. These insights are enabling many businesses to
gain a competitive edge by increasing operational efficiency while delivering the
best customer experience.
Promotional merchandising. Optimal product placement in the store, on the
shelf, via end-aisle displays, at checkout, or placed with cross-sell products, can
boost over-all conversion rates substantially. Using data collected from visual analytics,
retailers can determine if shoppers are viewing and responding to store displays
Dwell time analysis can measure where customers are spending time within a
store to determine whether certain promotions or displays are generating the desired
customer traffic and reaction. This provides key customer insight to marketing
management so they can make any necessary adjustments. By tracking traffic
patterns, marketing executives can determine how messages in one part of the
store may be moving traffic to other areas, as well as whether specific marketing
messaging is affecting dwell time. Demographic information such as age and gender,
obtained using video analytics, can also help determine which local promotions
drive the desired store traffic.
Accurate customer counting. A critical component in driving higher conversions
is to first understand current baseline conversion rates. To do this, it is essential to
have accurate data on current customer counts. There are many point solutions
available to count customer traffic. Testing is essential to ensure a particular solution
is generating accurate counts. For increased value, merchants should consider
a solution that offers real-time data and is integrated with additional analytics
such as dwell patterns, queue lengths and heat maps, all correlated with POS and
transaction amounts to truly understand what is going on in the store.
People counting can also be used to measure the number of customers that enter
areas around a promotion or compared with other locations to measure store
performance metrics. We have even seen innovative examples where fitness studios
are using people counting analytics to track class attendance as a measure of instructor
Measuring store traffic is valuable for security purposes as staff can receive
alerts when restaurants or clubs reach capacity limits. It can be used to measure
traffic in key areas like customer service, returns or changing rooms.
A COMBINED PLATFORM FOR LOSS PREVENTION
AND CUSTOMER INSIGHTS
Video analytics are most powerful when used in combination with each other.
Leveraging a detailed analysis of in-store activity with people counting, dwell patterns,
and heat maps and correlating that information with POS data and transaction
amounts offers managers and executives across the organization valuable insights
to inform staffing and other operational metrics, reduce wait times, optimize
promotional information and improve the customer experience.
For organizations in retail and many other industries interested in managing
and taking advantage of big data and video, finding the right VMS platform is
critical. To effectively leverage the growing quantities of video data being generated
today for business intelligence, companies need a VMS that includes powerful
search, streaming video, enterprise administration and video analytics. Running
security and business intelligence on a single platform enables enterprises to
use surveillance data to improve the customer experience, manage staffing levels,
increase conversion rates, optimize real estate usage, analyze performance across
locations and ultimately improve the bottom line.
Whether you are trying to justify the purchase of a new VMS,
or considering adding analytics to an existing system, your business
case becomes stronger when you can combine forces and
solve business and security problems with the same solution.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Security Today.