Retailers today face a number of security challenges, including shoplifting, shrink and theft at the point of sale, protecting the premises after hours, slip and fall lawsuits and much more. Adding complexity to the security challenge is that retailers face these threats in a variety of locations within stores, each of which comes with its own unique requirements.
For example, in the store itself, retailers must monitor register activity for accuracy, theft, fraud or sweet-hearting (theft by employees at the cash register giving away merchandise to a "sweetheart" customer such as a friend, family or fellow employee). They must also capture video footage from around the store to ensure that if someone commits a theft, they will be caught on camera, or if someone claims they’ve slipped and fallen, they will have video evidence. At the same time, this must be accomplished unobtrusively to ensure a positive customer experience. In the back of the house, retailers must protect stock, monitor loading docks and parking lots for intrusion or other crimes. In these locations, however, visibility of security cameras may be more important to serve as a deterrent.
Today’s flexible, intelligent surveillance cameras offer a variety of form factors and capabilities that allow them to address the range of security and operational challenges.
What to Look for in a Security Camera
When choosing a security camera for retail applications, there are a number of factors that will determine the success of security and operational efforts, as well as the return on investment in the technology.
The first of these is video quality because details are important for investigating a crime or identifying an individual. Therefore, cameras should be capable of capturing a high level of detail for the variety of retail applications.
A second primary factor is field of view. Even the highest-quality video is useless if the camera is incapable of capturing video of an event of interest. Wide angle or 360-degree capabilities, coupled with high resolution, provides the best possible view over a larger field of view, which allows retailers to see the entire sales floor in detail.
Lighting changes can be problematic with video, so it is necessary to choose cameras capable of overcoming these challenges. Cameras with wide dynamic range (WDR) capability are particularly useful at store entrances, for example. With WDR, images are not affected by the bright sunlight that often shines through windows, making it possible to capture details about individuals as they enter a store.
These three factors allow retailers to capture the highly detailed images that makes video surveillance effective, but often at a cost. The more detail the video contains, the larger the file sizes, which require more bandwidth to transfer video from the camera to the storage solution. All of this can add up to increased costs. However, with the advent of more efficient compression technologies like H.265, cost increases have been somewhat mitigated. Cameras for retail should incorporate H.265, which some manufacturers complement with their own compression technologies for even greater efficiency.
Flexibility is another important factor when evaluating cameras. Today’s advanced models are built on open platforms that make it possible to integrate multiple technologies easily. Many also offer the ability to add new capabilities by installing apps directly to the camera.
Finally, cameras that incorporate on-board video analytics bring intelligence to the video that allows the detection of specific events or situations, such as when someone enters a particular area of a store. These analytics solutions also serve to extend the value of security cameras beyond security.
Going Beyond Security to Improve Business Operations
In the traditional retail businesses, the most critical aspect was providing goods and services according to consumers' demands at a reasonable price, and the main role of security cameras was protection of property, i.e. safeguarding products from theft and deterring other illegal activities.
While security remains a primary driver behind retailers’ use of video, cameras perform a number of functions beyond surveillance. When combined with a variety of video analytics, cameras provide value to retailers in the form of business intelligence, which can directly result in increased sales. Therefore, exploring the management benefits of video in addition to the traditional focus on security and loss prevention is key to leveraging the complete value of video in retail operations.
In retail, where margins are often narrow, creating a positive customer experience becomes a priority for retailers. As they seek to identify and meet the rapidly changing needs and preferences of their customers, an entirely new approach is needed for retail businesses. Today’s cameras not only meet the basic requirements of safety and security but also deliver the intelligence necessary to enable the “smart retail” necessary to understand customer behavior.
Many cameras offer built-in heat mapping, people counting and other video analytics that utilize video to review and analyze movement of people within a retail outlet. This makes it possible to improve the store layout to alleviate crowding and to increase profits by placing high-profit items at a higher-traffic point. Video analytics also provide insight beyond sales numbers to determine how well a new display is performing based on time, day or other factors.
Short wait times play a main role in the customer experience and watching video can provide important data about when additional personnel may be needed in specific areas of the store, such as the checkout when lines are long. Having enough sales associates available during busier parts of the day can improve sales and increase the value of individual transactions.
Video also presents opportunities to improve employee performance in the areas of customer service, attentiveness, sales aptitude and more. Both good and poor performance can be reviewed and analyzed to create teachable moments and positive reinforcement.
These are just some of the many possibilities for retailers using surveillance cameras to address both security and operational challenges. High resolution, efficient bandwidth usage and on-board video analytics combine to allow cameras that may initially have been deployed for security purposes to be transformed into intelligence-gathering devices that directly impact the bottom line more than simply from a loss prevention perspective. Armed with the intelligence available in today’s cameras, retailers can not only protect their assets but also increase profits and generate a greater return on their investment in surveillance cameras.