Big Data Deal

Big Data Deal

Video management systems offer a powerful, combined platform for security and business intelligence

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 and employees.

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.


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 applications.

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.


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 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.


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 traffic areas.

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 staff-to-shopper ratios.

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 customer service.

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 and offers.

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 performance.

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.


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.

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