By Jackie Andersen
North American Retail Business Development Manager
Retail gets a makeover
roughly every 15 years, and mobility is
the industry’s latest transformation.
With the steady – sometimes overflowing
– stream of new technologies, it’s more
important than ever for retailers to
carefully consider which technologies
they adopt and to what scale. While each
new technology has its advantages, the
question should be: does it help solve a
problem or create one?
While retailers are notorious for being risk adverse and major shifts are often slow to start as a result, the reality is that mobility is not a fleeting technology. Since it is here to stay, retailers need to create and adapt their strategies to incorporate the new challenges that inevitably follow, especially for loss prevention.
With the inherent risks of mobility, retailers need to manage the change and develop an implementation strategy that fits their needs and growth. Established, yet nimble vendors and integrators can help stores deploy complementary technology solutions, such as IP video surveillance systems.
For example, sales transactions can take place anywhere on the floor with mobile POS, yet still need to be verified. Retailers can leverage some of the technologies they already have in place by linking network surveillance cameras, video analytics, RFID tags and EAS systems. With strategically placed video cameras, LP professionals can actively monitor whether a customer actually scanned an item or scanned a lower-priced item but put a higher-priced version in the shopping cart.
Retailers must also get buy-in from internal partners. The LP team may own the system, but the benefits of high quality video can reach across the organization. From marketing to merchandising, mobility affects the whole store, so it’s important to keep other departments involved throughout the process. Be sure to understand and address each stakeholder’s pain points, whether it’s maintaining customer service despite losing that checkout point or ensuring that stock levels are maintained. IP video can be used to address many of these issues, so it is important to convey these additional benefits early on to gain support for an IP-based system. Cross-functionality can skyrocket LP’s already high value in the organization.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Retailers need to evolve at a pace that fits their business and budget. Fortunately, IP video offers a solution for every need and size. Stores can leverage existing analog cameras with video encoders to digitalize analog streams, while those with full IP-based systems can leverage intelligent analytics like dwell-time analysis and heat mapping to help identify customers in need of assistance or who are considering a purchase.
What is your technical debt? In other words, what do you lose by keeping your old system? The answer varies by store, but it’s important to look at the existing system and see what the real cost is to extend the life of devaluing assets. Does not having a viewpoint of that area of the store miss internal shrink? Or does the camera by the exit produce a poor image that cannot be used in investigations? Retailers are beginning to realize that a growing number of “traditional” cash registers are on life support, and old, disparate surveillance systems are too.
In the digital world we live in, the entire shopping experience has been turned upside down. Retailers and advertisers across the country are trying to figure out the elusive Millennial Generation and their impact on brick-and-mortar stores, which are fast becoming a part of the shopping experience rather than the entire experience. With video and the metadata it produces, staff can better react to customer movement and provide the in-store experience that this new “experiencial” customer has come to expect. With showrooming and the Omnichannel, retailers have no choice but to adapt and embrace new technologies.
Mobility is the next brave new world for retail. Always cautious in nature, retailers must ensure the “noise” doesn’t drown out the basics of consistent customer service oversight, while also enabling the right tools (including video) for risk vulnerabilities associated with mobility: fraud, hacking, theft and policy violations. If implemented thoughtfully, mobility is an innovation that can drive value to the business.