Overcoming Key Challenges

Intelligent video plays a key role in the retail market

The retail industry has become increasingly competitive as brick-and-mortar companies attempt to hold their own against online retailers offering low prices and free shipping. In this environment, retailers are seeking every possible advantage they can get in order to grow revenues while also addressing traditional security challenges like inventory loss.

Theft of Inventory

Each year inventory loss, whether from shoplifting or employee theft, costs U.S. retailers billions of dollars each year—to the tune of $48.9 billion in 2016, according to Money Magazine. As a result, retailers’ efforts to reduce loss, protect existing inventory and provide a safe environment for customers and employees occupy significant resources. But at the same time, they must also find the means to address the vitally important—and extremely difficult—task of growing their customer base and maintaining customer loyalty with an eye toward growing their business.

Luckily, in addition to the more traditional security-focused roles of safety and loss reduction, an intelligent video surveillance solution can also improve customer satisfaction and optimize overall business results, which combine to keep operating expenses low while increasing efficiency and growing profits. Designing an effective retail video system begins with identifying pain points and then building a solution around those specific needs. This involves deploying the appropriate technology to monitor five key areas: people counting, traffic pattern analysis, customer satisfaction, reducing theft and monitoring the exterior.

People Counting

Unlike e-commerce companies, traditional retail establishments struggle to determine exactly how many people come into and out of their stores. The ability to accurately count the flow of visitors allows a retailer to ensure their business operations are as efficient as possible while also making it easier to calculate and make decisions that could improve in-store conversion rates and per-customer transactions.

People counting analytics, which are a feature of advanced cameras, provide the accurate information about foot traffic at store entrances retailers need to improve efficiencies, staffing levels and other factors directly related to customer service and satisfaction. By exporting reports daily, weekly, monthly or as needed, retailers can analyze traffic to greatly improve business efficiency.

To ensure the best results, cameras deployed at store entrances should include wide dynamic range (WDR) to deliver crystal clear images to monitor store entrances at all times, even in challenging lighting conditions, including high-contrast or backlit scenes.

Analyzing Traffic Patterns

For the main area of a retail establishment, cameras with corridor mode functionality can be used to monitor store aisles, minimizing the need for multiple cameras to monitor a single area. This capability also offers savings on bandwidth and storage needs because the image can be flipped 90 degrees, which results in only capturing usable data and eliminating the walls from images. Adding a fisheye camera will provide full coverage of shelf areas. Further, advanced heat mapping analytics can generate a visual demonstration of visitor flow through certain areas of the store. Cameras with heat mapping capability display hot and cold areas based on customer flow, which enables advanced business analysis.

In addition to counting people who enter and exit the store, retailers can also deploy regional people counting analytics to better understand how customers move through the store. This insight gleaned from monitoring traffic in particular regions is key for retailers to optimize product placement and prolong a customer’s visit.

How people move around a retail establishment says a lot about a store, particularly its layout. For example, knowing how displays are performing is extremely helpful for retailers, and video allows managers to monitor how a display changes traffic patterns and how much attention shoppers give to a particular display. These patterns can be analyzed by specific time of day, general time range, day of the week and other parameters to provide valuable information that goes much deeper than sales figures.

By analyzing and recognizing shoppers’ movements, retailers can alter and improve a store’s layout to reduce crowding in a particular area, and managers can also grow profits by placing high-value or high-profit items in an area where there is more foot traffic to make them more visible.

Improving Customer Satisfaction

If customers find themselves waiting in long lines at checkout counters, there is an increased likelihood that they will abandon their purchases and leave a store. Using the same heat mapping and people counting analytics that provide insight into how many customers enter a store and how they move through the sales floor, retailers can be alerted to the need to open additional registers to reduce wait times, thus ensuring customers are happy and will be more likely to complete their purchases.

On a larger scale, these insights can be used to determine the appropriate staffing levels for different hours of the day or days of the week, which can often prove to be a challenging task for retail managers. Video can alleviate this challenge by providing the data necessary to know when more employees are needed in particular areas of a store. The ability to make sure additional sales associates available at busier locations and times of day is another strategy for retailers to grow sales and increase the value of individual transactions.

Deploying dedicated cameras with high-resolution images at checkout counters allows a business to capture images that can capture transactions in great detail, which can resolve disputes or discrepancies. These cameras can also aid in investigations, such as determining who purchased an item listed on a receipt. Not only can retailers eliminate the potential for fraud and theft, but it ensures that transactions go smoothly, which directly impacts customer satisfaction.

Reducing Theft

While shoplifting certainly contributes to a retailer’s loss, internal theft is another main factor to be considered. One aspect of reducing employee theft is to monitor inventory levels, primarily in the store room. Monitoring these particularly vulnerable areas requires a fixed camera with ultra-low-light capabilities or a camera that includes infrared (IR) illumination, which will provide detailed around-the-clock surveillance in all lighting conditions. The addition of motion detection or advanced technologies like tripwire or removed object analytics only serve to enhance the effectiveness of these solutions in controlling inventory and reducing the potential for both theft and burglary.

Monitoring the Exterior

Much of retailers’ customer satisfaction and retention efforts are focused inside the store, and with good reason. After all, that’s where the sales happen. However, maintaining a secure environment outside the store is also vital to growing customer satisfaction. In these applications, a 180-degree multi-sensor camera, either bullet or dome style, is most effective.

Ideally, a camera should be mounted on a corner so a single camera can be used to monitor multiple angles, reducing the number of cameras and increasing the efficiency of security monitoring by allowing the feed to be viewed on fewer streams. For large area monitoring, PTZ cameras can be programmed to automatically track and generate alerts for abnormal activity or behaviors immediately.

In the case of accidents or burglaries, high-definition video can provide detailed evidence to confirm facts. The overall result is a more streamlined video security system that creates a safe environment both inside and outside of a retail establishment.

A retail-specific video management system brings together all of these areas to provide data analysis to support operations and management with an intuitive understanding of both current and historical store status, as well as future trends. Real-time remote access capability empowers retailers with up-to-the-minute information and video, enabling fast decision-making and effective store management from anywhere, at any time.

Intelligent video solutions offer retailers the ability to take advantage of the technologies deployed to overcome ever-present and all-important security concerns to address business challenges as well. When the right intelligent solutions are properly deployed, retailers gain valuable insight into the factors that will help them increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, streamline operations, lower operating expenses and more. All these factors combine to deliver the insight necessary to seize the advantages they need to keep pace with online retailers and grow their bottom line in the highly competitive retail industry— while also maintaining a safe environment and controlling losses from both shoplifting and employee theft.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Security Today.


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