Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
August 19th, 2020
Author: Lizzi Goldmeier

How Retail Stores Can Streamline Operations with Video Content Analytics

Whether they sell electronics, clothing apparel, or groceries, all retail stores and shopping centers can gain a competitive advantage by having better security and operational practices. To achieve those goals, they must be able to respond quickly in the present moment to developing situations in-store, investigate incidents, and plan strategically for the future, based on quantitative trend data. In the past, store managers and security teams had to rely on anecdotal information or human observation and sales records to gauge their effectivity. Increasingly, however, stores can leverage the power of video content analytics to gather long-term, comprehensive business intelligence about activity and traffic in their stores.

Many retail stores already have video surveillance (CCTV) cameras, which they use to monitor the property or investigate an incident using video footage post-event. To complement those camera networks, video content analytic systems harness the valuable data that is recorded by those video cameras. Powered by Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies, video content analysis processes video to identify and classify objects in the video footage (people, vehicles, and other items), and then index them to enable easy and quick video search and quantifiable and actionable information analysis. Video content analysis software aggregates video data over time to provide business intelligence that helps operations and security staff understand trends, make decisions and develop strategies and contingency plans.

Maximize store layout and product placement

Store managers benefit from more insight into how shoppers are navigating the store floor. Uncovering which store layouts are optimal for pedestrian traffic flow and which product promotions or displays are most popular can empower retailers to arrange stores based on consumer behavior and sales objectives. Various data points can be tracked over time; security staff can see where traffic flows easily or is obstructed in parking lots or stores; managers and buyers can identify which ads or promotions are driving foot traffic in the store. For example, clothing and apparel store managers can use video analytics to map customer paths, object interaction and dwell time at different displays, and count how many shoppers visit a product display to make future merchandising decisions.

Reduce crowding hotspots and control occupancy

Store layout is also an important factor in ensuring a safe, pleasant, and efficient customer experience, by preventing crowding – this is especially true for stores reopening during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Video analysis data that is aggregated over time can help retailers uncover where and why crowds form and make intelligent decisions to prevent future crowding. Crowds – especially long queues – are detrimental to the customer experience and, sometimes, compromise safety. It is important for operations and security managers to be aware of when, where, and how often crowds and queues form, so they can make intelligent staffing decisions based on crowding hotspots and traffic peaks and develop contingency plans for crowding in real time. Video content analytics systems can be configured to trigger alerts based on proximity and people counting filters: when pre-defined count and proximity thresholds are violated, operators can be notified that an unsafe number of people is occupying a certain area and investigate the quantity and density of the crowd formation.

These functionalities can be applied to areas within a store, such as checkout counters, fitting rooms and popular displays, but also to the entire store for the purpose of managing building occupancy. Video analytics-driven reports can be generated to review occupancy trends, real time alerts can be triggered to control people count in stores and occupancy counter tools can help retailers report – in real time and in aggregate – the store occupancy trends. This, of course, is critical in the wake of the global health crisis, as some states and countries limit the number of persons permitted in a space. In addition, video content analytics can be used to monitor whether customers and employees are generally following the public health mandates for wearing face masks or physical distancing, based on a proximity identification filter for quantifying and analyzing the distance and duration between individuals over time and location.

Also important during a health crisis – and beyond – occupancy statistics can also be used to optimally schedule cleaning based on facility usage. For large retail businesses, outlets, or shopping centers with hundreds, if not, thousands of visitors each day, maintenance and cleaning are critical functions. Traditionally, maintenance workers follow a cleaning schedule, but with video content analytics, these facilities can more efficiently deploy cleaners in real time: By configuring people-counting alerts, managers can understand when a custom threshold for people entering a restroom or store area has been surpassed and assign maintenance staff to clean the high-trafficked area. Over time, traffic data can be generated and analyzed in dashboard reports and heatmaps to provide visibility into traffic trends and develop maintenance schedules accordingly.

Uncover customer demographic trends

Video content analysis also enables retail users to gather information about customer demographics, such as gender or whether visitors are children or adults. Merchandising, marketing and advertising teams can use this data to ensure that their store offers items of interest for each demographic; to understand which demographics aren’t being engaged; and develop strategies to improve engagement with those audiences.

Accelerating investigation and real-time security response

By using video content analytics, retail security and operations managers can streamline their operations and obtain valuable, actionable business intelligence to inform their planning. Video analytics are a cost effective way to leverage an investment in video surveillance networks, because – in addition to driving positive customer experiences – it can be leveraged to help improve store security and prevent inventory loss: Video content analysis provides an easy way for operators to review video footage from across multiple cameras in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days of manual review, to investigate losses and crimes in stores. Operators can search by filters set to show people or objects that fit a certain description, allowing them to extract crucial details, gather evidence, and accelerate investigations.

In real-time, retail managers and security staff can configure real-time alerts to trigger when pre-defined behaviors – that may warrant response or intervention – are detected. For example, if a there is a crowd or long queue forming or if an unidentified individual is detected entering the inventory area, security staff can be notified to assess and manage the situation and respond as needed, quickly and preventatively. From loss prevention to containing the public health crisis to streamlining checkout, the ability to access actionable and quantifiable intelligence from video surveillance streams helps retailers ensure a safe and comfortable experience for customers to foster their loyalty and retention.