Solutions boost sales and security
In retail, as in other fields, safety and security concerns sometimes conflict with marketing and sales. New solutions in video analytics and store design, however, meet both objectives.
While security cameras have been used by the retail industry for decades to deter theft and provide forensic evidence, the idea of using them for business intelligence purposes is fairly recent. But all it takes is sufficient computer power and video analytics software for a retailer to boost the return on investment from surveillance networks.
The sophisticated video analytics software is capable of detecting threats through image-processing algorithms. These algorithms detect movement or changes in live and recorded video and determine potential threats, such as loitering or a shopper entering a restricted area. The video software alerts the surveillance system operator who can then take action.
“In the past, cameras served mostly a deterring purpose”.
Today, video analytics is being used for traffic and statistical analysis in addition to detecting threats.
At Agent Vi, a provider of video analytics solutions, Ariel N. Frischoff, sales vice president, explains why a comparatively mature technology has suddenly opened up to new applications: “With the convergence from analog to digital cameras and all-IP networks, existing systems lend themselves to new applications, such as business intelligence. In the past, cameras served mostly a deterring purpose.”
One of the challenges in applying video analytics in the retail market is the need for added computer processing power to analyze real-time high-resolution video feeds. Also, retailers need hard drives for storing data as well as physical space for new servers, and, above all, loss prevention experts need to liaise with the marketing professionals.
Shopping behavior stats
“Retailers have always hungered for more information about their customers – who they are and what they are doing inside the store. In the past, the only sure figures were how many people made a purchase and sometimes the number of visitors, but those numbers don’t necessarily reveal whether the marketing efforts are worthwhile.”
A retalier can study how customers behave in different areas and, for example, analyze how they act in the vicinity of premium products – so-called hot zones – compared with other spaces.
Video analytics software fulfills that need, by capturing images from in-store cameras, analyzing them and producing relevant output in the form of alerts and statistical reports. A retailer may, for example, generate complex sales reports to compare shopper behavior at different times of the day. He or she can study how customers behave in different areas and, for example, analyze how they act in the vicinity of premium products – so-called hot zones – compared with other spaces.
“It’s actionable quality information in an easily accessible format,” says Frischoff, who is currently cooperating with a pharmaceutical retailer, who studies the correlation between actual sales and customer dwelling time. “Retailers use video analytics in designing the stores, since it helps them know where to position different products within the store. In the past, they just guessed at it,” Frischoff says. “Retailers who compare different stores in a chain may find that a particular unit achieves higher sales than another unit with an equal number of visitors. Video analytics may help answer why this is the case.”
Cameras aside, there are other elements of store design that fulfill the dual objective of bolstering security while also enhancing the shopping experience and improving sales.
In Belgium, award-winning design firm MAXIMALdesign applies “brandscaping” in creating public environments like stores and offices. “Architecture and interior design have become a marketing tool to communicate brand images, engage customers and motivate your employees,” says Chief Designer Maxime Szyf. The design firm strives to connect people with brands by designing products and sales spaces that grab attention. “We also aim to achieve a measurable return in terms of strategic goals such as brand recognition and store traffic,” adds Szyf.
Balancing retail space
In designing retail environments from a security as well as a marketing perspective, MAXIMALdesign has pioneered the “savannah concept” which Szyf says is about providing a good overview and avoiding hidden corners that invite shoplifting and pilfering. “The open space, however, needs to include room for personal space where shoppers can relax without losing the overview. Shoppers should feel that they are in control and feel secure in their environment.”
The concept, Szyf explains, is based on studies of how wild animals behave on the open plains of Africa.
The concept, Szyf explains, is based on studies of how wild animals behave on the open plains of Africa. “They tend to sit by the bushes where they have some personal space and feel protected, yet retain an overview of the entire savannah.”
Modern herds of the human variety, however, are prone to using the latest gadgets, like app-loaded smartphones, to ease and enhance their shopping. Subsequently, interactivity is another important technology trend that can boost the store’s brand as well as increase sales, says Szyf.
“In the fast-evolving digital culture, interactivity boosts sales and it doesn’t end when you leave the store, he says. “Customers continue to interact and shop via a smartphone app or the website. Prior to visiting the store, many also check out the products they plan to buy and compare prices.” Retailers should use these interactive technologies in developing interesting and functional ways that help the consumers make purchasing decisions, adds Szyf.
As the demands on retailers grow and expand even beyond the physical shop, security technologies that can deliver added value come as a very welcome benefit.
By Jonas Rehnberg