Posts Tagged :

retail

Shining a spotlight on in-store security

960 640 Guest Blog

Rising crime, specifically violent crime, is a concern for every retailer. Staff are well trained. Stores are alarmed and often linked to 24 hour monitoring services. But is that enough?

Real-time communication between staff is already proven to reduce shoplifting; adding instant access to security expertise provides another level of staff protection.

As Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains, when faced with an incident, staff with wireless headsets can communicate not only with their colleagues across the store but also directly with the security experts at the monitoring service to gain essential assurance and instruction…

Violent Threat

Retailers take staff safety incredibly seriously, but how should companies respond to the latest retail crime figures from the British Retail Consortium? Not only is crime rising but attacks are increasingly violent, involving not only knives and guns but also syringes, even tasers; while threatening behaviour is also on the rise.

Of course, staff have always been well trained to deal with issues such as shop lifting and drunkenness. But with individuals now increasingly concerned about the use of violence to assist theft, or in response to a request for proof of age, should retailers still rely on an under the counter panic button? For those convenience stores often staffed by one or two people late at night, the ability to raise the alarm is clearly essential. But what happens next? A 24 hour monitoring centre will immediately alert the police and pull up the CCTV in store; these security staff may even be able to access an in store speaker system to speak directly to everyone in the store, in a bid to calm down the situation and deter the criminal.

However, such a direct approach is not always ideal, especially if there are a number of customers in store. What is required is a way for the 24 hour monitoring service to speak directly to staff – including those who might be in the stock room or on a break – to provide advice and guidance as to how best to proceed with the specific situation.

Immediate Contact

Better communication is already proven to deter crime, with retailers providing staff with wireless headsets reporting a 25% reduction in shrinkage due to petty theft.  Shoplifters are deterred by the fact that staff can immediately communicate their concerns to colleagues and gain instant support. Extending the headset communication to include a 24 hour monitoring service can deliver essential real-time support and expertise for staff when a dangerous situation occurs.

With wireless headsets, as soon as the alarm is raised, security staff can not only pull up the CCTV but also hear (and record) everything going on in store via the headset microphone. Advice can be provided to staff members on the front line, not only offering comfort during a terrifying situation but also reinforcing the training already in place and ensuring staff follow protocol to minimise their risk of being hurt.

At the same time, all other members of staff also hear everything being said, wherever they are in the store. This ensures that everyone can respond as required – from removing customers from the store to avoiding accidentally blundering in and exacerbating the situation.

In addition, just as headsets deter shoplifting, the fact that store staff are immediately in touch with security experts and, by default, the police, could also act as a deterrent to those with more violent intent.

Conclusion

Retailers have extremely robust protocols in place today to minimise the impact of crime on staff. However, the rise in violent crime has raised the stakes and it is incumbent upon retailers to reconsider the staff experience – especially in those stores with long opening hours and small staff numbers.  Given the changing nature of the threats facing staff, a real-time response is becoming ever more important not only to support, safeguard and comfort individuals during the incident but also present a far more robust deterrent.

GUEST BLOG: Are security cameras the future of sales?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Ask somebody what they immediately think about when someone mentions CCTV and their mind often jumps to the idea of; being watched, invasion of privacy or even the phrase ‘Big Brother’, writes Andy Martin, Vertical Segment Leader at Morphean

The tussle between security over privacy remains, but there are new benefits that may be changing the balance in favour of the “security camera.”

Take a look at retail for example. Retail brands are fighting on all fronts to establish an understanding of and a connection to their customers.  Omni channel retailers need to understand the role of their stores in their overall sales strategy, and brands still compete against each other and pureplay retailer for sales.  Could security cameras actually be the secret to their survival? With new technologies developing all the time, it seems that CCTV could be the silver bullet that the high street was looking for this whole time.

Looking ahead

Of course, one of the biggest reasons shops install security cameras is to protect against theft and anti-social behaviour – and that means security cameras pointed at entrances and exits and till points, watching over valuable and expensive items and the people going about their day. But were they ever anything more than deterrents? Sitting, watching and waiting for someone to commit a crime?

The old saying about surveillance is that 99% of CCTV footage is never watched. And that’s because the only way to ensure capturing anything of interest was to constantly monitor footage. Retail manpower has fallen significantly so now retailers scramble around after the event and try to retrieve footage so images tend to be corroborative rather than insightful.

Rather than waiting for something to happen, nowadays it’s all about thinking forwards and looking for and spotting potential risks before they become an issue.

CCTV has come a long way in the last 10 years alone, and the latest models are now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to try and detect suspicious behaviour before it escalates into an actual crime. For example, if someone is stood at a cash machine and hasn’t presented their card for 10 seconds, or if two expensive items leave the shelf at the same time, a security alert can be activated. The footage recorded and a clip pushed out to the responsible stakeholder.  While this doesn’t mean that a person should be questioned on the spot, it alerts staff members to observe them more closely in case an incident should arise.

AI can also be used to keep staff and customers safe, and technology has even gone a step further into examining human emotions through aggression detectors. If the cameras detect that a customer is become irate, angry and perhaps even physically violent, alerts can be activated by the central control system to escalate the issue to local police if necessary.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and this new ‘smarter’ CCTV can help in a huge number of ways by looking ahead to the future and working to prevent problems from arising.

Consumer behaviour

Now onto that silver bullet. There’s so much that we can learn about the way that ordinary people shop through the new technology in CCTV ; so much so that it can inform and change how stores are laid out and where items are displayed. We can learn where customers move to, how much time they spend in each area, and how they navigate the aisle and store layout, and all this information can be harnessed to help improve the customer experience; ultimately helping shops sell more products.

As customers walk around shops, IP cameras are constantly gathering information called ‘customer metrics’, such as:

  • Queue length
  • Dwell time in aisles
  • Dwell time in front of promotional / sale areas
  • Footfall
  • Seasonality changes
  • Faces of returning customers
  • Age and descriptions
  • Demographics
  • Customer direction after they enter

That kind of information is incredibly valuable to retailers, who can tweak store layouts to their advantage and encourage customers to spend more time in certain sections or sale aisles, for example.

One example of customer flow data being critical to store development is in the food sector. With four different ways to transact, self scan checkout, scan as you shop, pay at the counter and now scan and go “frictionless” shopping, there is nothing such as a typical shopper behaviour anymore.  Will layouts change to reflect this?  Then there are differing shopper trends, vegan, free from, changes to more sustainable packaging that will change the way food is displayed.  Video analytics can give great insighta as retailers navigate this journey. 

And the changes are rapid.  Look at convenience shopping.  From giving the customer the option to self checkout as an exception only a few years ago, to the vast majority of transactions are self checkout.  Only age restricted products now need to be paid for using  an operator. How long before these products can be machine vended using biometrics to validate a customers age? In light of these changes, how does staffing the store correctly look?  How are promotions best placed? How many self serve counters?  Importantly, video analytics can also measure the impact of changes in sore layout and resources.

The future

Things are changing, and they are changing fast. And with all of these incredible new developments come new challenges too. One of the biggest is the fine line that exists between privacy and security; which one takes precedent? The recent introduction of GDPR has made this even more complicated, and it’s up to the industries themselves to ensure that customer data is not being exploited.

But ultimately all of this data that can be gathered, and how it can be used to make shopping smarter, more efficient and more effective for both retailers and shoppers, is incredible. It’s an exciting time for the future of sales and retail and one thing is for certain, artificial intelligence is leading the way and will continue to revolutionise how we shop.

UK retail issues food security ‘no deal’ Brexit warning

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and M&S are among UK retailers to have warned about the devastating impact a so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit will have on food security and supply in the UK.

In an open letter to MPs, send by the British Retail Consortium trade body, the CEOs of the country’s biggest food retailers called on the government to do everything it can to prevent the cliff-edge scenario from occurring.

The letter, which was also signed by eateries KFC, McDonald’s and Pret A Manger, said that food stocks will experience shortages and that sufficient storage at ports and in warehouses simply wasn’t available for stockpiling given the just in time methods employed on most food imports.

The letters reads: “Our supply chains are closely linked to Europe – nearly one third of the food we eat in the UK comes from the EU. In March the situation is more acute as UK produce is out of season: 90% of our lettuces, 80% of our tomatoes and 70% of our soft fruit is sourced from the EU at that time of year. As this produce is fresh and perishable, it needs to be moved quickly from farms to our stores.

“This complex, ‘just in time’ supply chain will be significantly disrupted in the event of no deal. Even if the UK government does not undertake checks on products at the border, there will still be major disruption at Calais as the French government has said it will enforce sanitary and customs checks on exports from the EU, which will lead to long delays; Government data suggest freight trade between Calais and Dover may reduce by 87% against current levels as a result. For consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores.

“We are also extremely concerned about the impact of tariffs. Only around 10% of our food imports, a fraction of the products we sell, is currently subject to tariffs so if the UK were to revert to WTO Most Favoured Nation status, as currently envisaged in the no-deal scenario, it would greatly increase import costs, which could in turn put upward pressure on food prices. The UK could set import tariffs at zero but that would have a devastating impact on our own farmers, a key part of our supply chains.”