Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
March 11th, 2021
Author: Grant Jensen

Beyond Loss Prevention: Improving Customer Engagement & Experiences with Retail Video Analysis

Video Surveillance is Not Just for Security Anymore

In retail settings, video surveillance tends to be owned by security and loss prevention teams, and video is typically leveraged for real-time monitoring and manual investigative review. However, much has changed in the past few years, thanks to video intelligence software, which complements video surveillance systems and enables multiple retail management teams to benefit from existing video surveillance assets. Now, the valuable information that often lies buried and untapped in video can serve operations, merchandising, marketing, and customer service teams, as well as security.

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What is Video Content Analysis?

Video analytics software that is powered by AI and Deep Learning extracts, identifies, and classifies objects (people, vehicles, and other items), as well as object attributes such as vehicle or clothing type and color, direction and speed of travel, and changes in lighting. Video processing for analysis can be triggered in real-time for alerting as events unfold, to drive proactive responses, or on-demand to analyze archived footage.

Such software also aggregates video metadata over time, so that operators can generate visualized trend reports that can be easily shared among stakeholders within a department or across multiple business groups, as needed. This business intelligence benefits multiple users across a retail organization, helping them make decisions based on quantitative, qualitative, and actionable data.

Video Data Enables Proactive Response and Drives Strategic Decisions

Video intelligence software is key to reacting in the present, as well as planning for the future, because it helps heighten retailers’ situational awareness and drive proactive response to developing situations, as well as strategic decision making for the long term. In the examples below we’ll discuss how video analytics can be leveraged to improve customer engagement, inform merchandising and marketing plans, and optimize operations and security.

Determine Optimal Retail Space and Layout

Let’s discuss how video analytics software helps operations teams get more value from existing video surveillance networks. Video intelligence dashboards can measure where people linger, as well as how long they typically dwell in an area and heatmaps help uncover footfall around particular aisles or product displays. Both these metrics help merchandising and operations managers make better strategic decisions, especially in terms of optimal store layout. Reports about how many customers entered a store, how many walked down a particular aisle, as well as which exits or entrances are most often utilized, drive more efficient and effective space utilization in stores.

In addition to making the store easier for customers to navigate, comprehensive footfall reports also help merchants overcome another one of their biggest challenges: differentiating employees from customers on the store floor. Video analytics unlocks a retailer’s ability to drill down into traffic insights by anonymously recognizing unique identities across cameras. This allows retailers to measure unique, bounced and return traffic to specific stores, advertisements, or displays to understand the efficacy of campaigns and popularity of different sales items. But it also can be used for differentiating between sales associates and guests to ensure that traffic data is focused on customers only – without including staff in the statistics – while also enabling operators to measure how associates engage and identify opportunities for deeper consumer engagement.

Video intelligence can also be correlated with sales data; for example, analyzing how many customers walked by an end cap display compared to how many stopped to look, and how that compares to purchases of the product from that display. 

Gather Demographic Data

Another customized dashboard that a video analytics system can deliver enables the analysis of how many customers utilize the store or discrete areas within the store on an hourly, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, and what percentage of those customers are men, women, or children. A marketing team can use those reports to assess whether they are attracting the right type and quantity of customers for the products they offer and can then adjust their product lines or their advertising plans, or both. Retailers can take the collected data a step further and analyze these metrics by district, state, region or globally.

Reduce Bottlenecks and Service Queues

To ensure a streamlined customer experience, people count alerts can detect and notify customer service managers if a checkout area becomes too crowded; managers can then assign more sales associates to handle the increased queues, or redirect customers to other checkout areas. Management teams can also generate long-term data regarding customer service, such as the average queue length, and the average amount of time a customer stands in a queue and correlate this to the store’s Customer Satisfaction/Survey ratings to understand the impact of queue or services time.

Improve Operations

By using video content analytics, operations managers can streamline everything from maintenance to distribution center logistics. Managers can schedule associate shifts more effectively when their decisions are based on quantitative data about pedestrian or vehicle traffic flow throughout a store. For public safety and to drive satisfactory customer experiences,  operators can also set occupancy thresholds and receive alerts when these have been exceeded to prevent crowding or identify when heavily trafficked areas – such as restrooms or changing rooms – should undergo routine cleaning or maintenance.

Employee Training and Coaching

Due to the ability to differentiate between employees and customers, managers drive not only improved operations, but drive more effective associate engagement by reviewing an employee’s movement patterns and customer interactions across the store for a single shift or multiple days. Using analytic filters such as appearance similarity and proximity identification, merchants can quantify and report on the number of engagements an employee has with customers. These reviews allow retailers to audit and confirm that their employees are following employee engagement expectations or identify employees that need further coaching employees to better engage with customers as part of an improvement plan.

Optimize Security and Loss Prevention

Of course, security teams also benefit from video content analytics, which acts as a force multiplier. In particular, loss prevention – both in stores and distribution centers – is a top priority for retailers, and there is a need to be able to reactively investigate and proactively detect suspicious behavior on the part of associates and guests. Typically, loss prevention investigations involve many hours of archived video review, but video analytics technology enables fast, filtered searches across multiple cameras, so video operators can find the information they need in a matter of minutes. For example, if a product was stolen from a display within a camera view, investigators can filter video and search for object interactions within that particular display to quickly identify when the product went missing and pinpoint potential perpetrators.

In terms of real-time monitoring of situations, security teams can’t realistically observe every camera, every minute – especially when a store has deployed dozens, if not hundreds, of cameras. By configuring rule-based, real-time alerts, surveillance operators can be notified whenever pre-defined situations occur,, such as an inventory light turning on after hours; a known shoplifting offender being recognized through face matching against a watchlist; or more. Security can also configure notifications to be triggered when individuals that are not recognized associates enter sensitive areas, such as inventory spaces; this enables proactive response to the suspicious activity. These video content analysis functions (and more!) make security teams far more effective and efficient.

Video intelligence provides actionable information that multiple departments in a retail operation can apply to optimize their performance and improve efficiency. With most retail operations already using video surveillance, implementing video analytics is a compelling way for these organizations to derive more value from that technology investment, and transform video data into valuable insights that can be shared across several areas of a retail business.