Using Video Analytics in a Retail Environment

Oct. 27, 2008

Video surveillance solutions are often perceived by retail managers as an unfortunate necessity to prevent loss from theft, fraud and shrinkage. These systems are often viewed as a financial burden, rather than an efficiency maximization tool. However, an intelligent video management platform that harnesses sophisticated analytic capabilities can help your organization increase operational efficiency while securing assets, infrastructure, property and lives.

Increasing the Effectiveness of Security Resources

An intelligent video solution helps to ensure a safe environment for customers and staff. Every area inside and outside of a store, including large unmanned parking lots and distribution environments, is a potential security risk for employees and customers. Security teams are often spread thinly over increasingly large areas, making rapid response difficult during emergencies. Video analytics applications sort through massive amounts of video data collected by any number of security cameras and identify the most critical events and behaviors of interest. Applications like intrusion detection and loitering detection proactively identify suspicious activity and alert security personnel, enabling them to focus only on the most pressing situations. By extending the resources of existing security personnel, video analytics prevent information overload and deliver the actionable intelligence required to eliminate threats before they escalate.

Expedite Investigations and Improve Collaboration with Law Enforcement

When a security incident occurs, retail security personnel need to rapidly understand what happened, why it happened, and collaborate with local law enforcement to share valuable intelligence. Intelligent video applications can tag events of interest to help security personnel reduce the time required to sift through thousands of hours of video footage to identify what's important to an investigation.

With the right solution, gathering case-related audio, video, and data from an array of cameras and enterprise systems is as easy as searching within one database, and then can be automatically sent to the proper authorities. This is critical to support litigation and to resolve injury claims and to reduce the internal burden of loss prevention case management

Attacking Loss Prevention with POS Analytics

For years, video surveillance systems have been used by loss prevention professionals to monitor retail locations in order to prevent theft. The challenges associated with retail loss prevention are typically related to Point-of-Sale (POS) activities in which employee theft can play a major role. Loss prevention teams need the ability to immediately identify suspicious register transactions and act upon them in real-time.

Intelligent video solutions are helping retail managers address this issue through POS analytics applications. For example, one application specifically targets employee return fraud — when a cashier rings a “return transaction” without a customer present. Through sophisticated integration with a retailer's POS system, these analytics detect if a customer is present when a return transaction occurs and automatically alert management in the event of a potential security breach.

Open Architecture Leads to Easy Integration

In order for an intelligent video solution to integrate seamlessly with a retail organization's other IT systems, it has to be built on open, accepted IT industry standards. An open architecture allows for seamless communication and information mobility between systems like access control, intrusion detection, fire detection and POS. When video collaborates with other systems, a strategic alliance is created. For example, when analytics detect a potential security breach, they can automatically trigger actions within other systems, such as the locking of a door or sounding of an audible alarm.

An open architecture is also important in terms of flexibility and scalability. When implementing an intelligent video solution, it is important to deploy technology that fits within your organization's existing infrastructure. That way you can everage existing analog security investments while scaling to respond to growing security needs.

Extracting Operational Efficiency and Business Intelligence

Forward-thinking retail executives are increasingly using video analytics to glean business intelligence and increase operational efficiency. An intelligent video solution can increase profitability and help an organization gain competitive advantage by providing valuable insight into staffing efficiency, customer behavior, customer needs and marketing effectiveness.

When advanced analytic applications such as people counting, queue fullness and traffic flow analysis are integrated with other business systems, they can:

Assess the flow of people through buildings and outside areas, facilitating long-term planning and alerting appropriate personnel to situations that require rerouting of traffic or other action.

Quantify the number of visitors and passengers in check-out lines so that staff can be effectively allocated and rapidly dispatched when needed.

Determine when an excessive number of uniformed employees congregate in a single area, so that managers can address staff productivity issues.

Provide insight into customer behavior and traffic patterns for maximizing display placement and evaluating responses to marketing initiatives.

Help organizations understand the volume of visitors and passengers at different times of day or year, so that staffing schedules can be tuned to accommodate demand.

And with the remote monitoring capabilities that come with the best video management platforms, district and regional retail managers can securely and efficiency view developments within all of their stores. The security, operational efficiency and worker and customer satisfaction that video analytics provides generates tangible financial benefits to any retail organization.

Mariann McDonagh has served as senior vice president of global marketing for Verint Systems since March 2002. She has more than 20 years of high tech and software marketing experience at companies including Cheyenne Software and CMP Media. Ms. McDonagh is a member of the CMO Council, the Direct Marketing Association and the National Association of Female Executives.