For Security Integrators, Not All Retail Store Clients Should Be Treated the Same
More retail outlets are looking for security solutions for loss prevention, but integrators need to do their due diligence on a prospect’s unique security needs.
Delivering the Tech Goods to Retail
Bohm says that loss prevention and asset management teams are increasingly becoming educated on some of the technologies that pique their interest and meet their needs. Access control and video surveillance rank as the most regular requests, he reports. “There is such an array of products that fall in these categories that the solution provider needs to listen to the challenges of their customer to determine the best product.”
As camera costs continue to decline, video surveillance has become a much more palatable solution for retailers to adopt, according to Bohm. “Retailers operate on slim margins, so the cost effectiveness of cameras now makes it easier to apply these applications,” he says. “So we’re seeing some of the more smaller-scale stuff starting to happen. It’s a slow-and-steady uptick, as it’s becoming more affordable for small- to medium-sized retail business owners.”
White echoes that video has been a top seller for some time, and he expects this to continue, but adds that there has been a noticeable increase in managed access control at the store level. “Traditionally, user and credential management was too complicated and expensive for most multisite retailers, but cloud-enabled platforms are changing this and enabling some creative and cost-saving applications,” he says.
A key challenge that security providers face, White asserts, relates directly to the footprint of the retailer they wish to service. “Beyond just business licensing in multiple states [and countries], the systems must be designed and deliv
ered consistently,” he says, “yet in accordance with applicable regulations/requirements. Additionally, retailers expect excellent technical support and field service – at any store, at any time. It can be very challenging to service a large retailer without extensive experience in national/international operations, and equally challenging to keep a good customer as they grow beyond your service boundaries.”
Bohm adds that specifying the appropriate solutions goes hand in hand with understanding the client company’s culture, the type of business they’re in, the storefront’s geography and customer demographics, and prioritizing what that end user values. Different needs dictate different solutions. “If you look, for example, at Dollar Stores, from a customer’s perspective you’d say, ‘Why’d they want to put security elements in a 99-cent store? How much could shrink really be?’ But it’s not just the 99-cent pieces, it’s what happens at the back door, if someone steals a full pallet of product. For other retailers, they may not be so concerned about merchandise but more about violent crimes taking place on their premises. Others may want to refine their process on managing cash or monitor electronic transactions. It comes down to what means the most to a company.”
These days, Bohm sees no reason for a retailer not to have video surveillance. He references access control as likely being the next step up in their protection plans. Additionally, if the customer manages cash and worries about the environment they’re in, whether it be an inner-city or remote rural area, for instance, expansion opportunities may present themselves from there. “Video turns into video analytics, then they can go into remote access, building layer upon layer, upgrading the technology they have,” he says.
Video Analytics & Data Mining Make Strides
Roberts says he’s encountering more retail clients using video analytics and mining data to help improve their business and operations. He anticipates seeing all retailers moving in this direction eventually. “It is the catalyst of the change from a loss prevention mindset to an asset protection mindset,” he explains. “In the past decade, we’ve seen a shift in loss prevention strategy from an external focus to more on internal theft and protocols that contribute to losses. A majority of our clients have shed the ‘loss prevention’ title and replaced it with ‘asset protection.’ Their roles call for increased time investigating internal losses, conducting compliance audits or ensuring that process efficiencies are being met, such as monitoring a cashier who is innocently scanning items improperly.”
There is an uptick in obtaining actionable data across the enterprise in the form of real-time tracking, according to Roberts. He says Setronics’ clients have been utilizing technology differently than in the past. No longer are video surveillance systems being installed to catch only shoplifters; they’re also being employed to capture customer traffic patterns, and dwell times at the checkout counter or in the display area (i.e., how long did someone stand there before making a purchasing decision and did they pick up one or multiple items?). This information allows the end user to tweak its marketing messaging and presentation efforts to better maximize customer exposure.
Roberts sees huge growth potential for data mining capabilities, “especially within the technology arena where retailers can achieve situational awareness in real-time from any location. I believe this will be the next big wave as retailers continue to use CCTV technology to gather the actionable data driving situational awareness.”
As a former loss prevention guy, Bohm terms video analytics and data mining as vital elements to a productive, successful LP and operations team and a profitable company. He notes that the industry started looking at analytics about 15 years ago, from a sales and operational perspective, to monitor behavior. Now that video and data are being merged, many aspects of the retail process can now be analyzed from a data monitoring standpoint.
White is also seeing increased use of video analytics and data mining, with a caveat. Retailers that operate with a more mature IT infrastructure — and have adopted a data-centric approach to business operations — are far more likely to be able to fully take advantage of these technologies, he reports.
Going Back to the Future
Integrators should also keep an eye to the future, and consider clients’ system scalability to combat obsolescence and plant upselling seeds, Bohm says. “This is where the IT relationship is so important, because everything today is on a network.” Bohm emphasizes that it’s important to find out what the customer’s vision is and, if they don’t have one, to try to educate them on potential capabilities and what their future monitoring and access control needs might be. “If they think that down the road they’d like to expand the capabilities of their system, put the initial hardware in place to make that expansion work later.”
White points out that the solutions Vector Security recommends to retail clients vary based on their risk and shrink profiles. But, in general, they focus on systems and services that deliver maximum ROI, and design them in the most flexible and open way possible. Today, he says, that includes building a close relationship with IT and other stakeholders to identify additional value, corporate requirements and opportunities for efficiencies. “With so many systems connecting via PoE, sharing WAN bandwidth and utilizing network resources like storage and directory services, a collaborative approach is critical,” he says.
While scalable and so-called “future-proof” systems are often desired, White cautions that there can be practical limits to this that are imposed by budgets and the customer’s strategic objectives over the expected life of the equipment. “The most important consideration is the core infrastructure and connectivity strategy, since designing that correctly will give the most flexibility over time,” he says. “For example, some retailers have expressed an interest in HD-over-coax products and dedicated WANs for security systems. Both of these have a place, but require specific cabling and/or network design that may be incompatible with future needs and require replacement of components earlier than desired.”
Bio: Erin Harrington has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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