Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
April 5th, 2021
Author: Zohar Adler

Video Analytics Applications for Grocery Store Chains

Leverage Video Surveillance to Benefit Many Stakeholders, Not Only Security

Grocery store chains typically use video surveillance for security purposes at individual stores; however, by enhancing their traditional video surveillance networks with video analytics software, grocery store chains can centralize their video insights from all their stores to obtain valuable intelligence with far reaching benefits for security at individual branches of the chain as well as but the central management of the entire organization, including several departments and stakeholders beyond security. Video data has applications for multiple departments – to name a few: security, sales, marketing, customer service, and operations. Continue reading to learn how video intelligence software allows corporate headquarters to get much more value from their existing investment in video surveillance.

Tap the Valuable Information That is Buried in Video Footage

To begin with, traditional video surveillance camera networks generate high volumes of footage, most of which is only reviewed in response to security or safety incidents. There are simply too many cameras and not enough staff to monitor all cameras in real-time 24/7. Furthermore – even if they had enough time – the potential for human distraction and user error and the required resources to support video monitoring would be too overwhelming for most organizations to bear. Video analytics software enables operators to consolidate video data from multiple camera feeds and stores, and the technology enables businesses to realize the value of their video content by making it searchable, actionable and quantifiable.

Driven by Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies, video content analytics software can process video to identify and classify objects in the video footage (people, vehicles, and other objects), and then index those objects to enable extensive search and filtering of objects based on multiple classes and attributes, such as gender, direction of movement, clothing accessories such as hat or mask, and clothing or vehicle color. The analysis occurs in real-time or on-demand, so that operators can receive live alerts about developing situations in-store as they are evolving. The software also makes it easy to review archived footage, to quickly search for objects or behaviors of interest and investigate incidents.

Last but not least, video content analytics also aggregates video data over time to deliver customized trend and visual dashboard reports for informing strategic business decision-making and planning. Managers at both corporate headquarters and individual stores can leverage such reports and can share them across departments, as needed, to increase visibility and planning efficiencies – both for stores within the chain and for the chain at large, so that executives can have oversight of performance per store as well as regionally, nationally, or internationally.

Increase Store or Headquarters Awareness and Enhance Response

Because video content analysis aggregates long-term data, it can be leveraged to understand normal activities or conditions –benchmarks which can be leveraged by system operators for determining critical real-time alerts to understand and detect unexpected behaviors. Here are a few examples:

  • People-count alerts detect when the number of persons or vehicles in an area, such as a customer checkout, merchandise department, service area or parking lot, exceed a pre-determined threshold – to drive comfortable and safe customer experiences
  • Illumination alerts are sent when a light goes off or on at unexpected times – to notify security, enable quick assessment of the situation, and prevent shrink
  • Dwell alerts notify operators when someone or something is dwelling for an unusually long period in a particular area – another way security can mitigate theft and ensure the safety of customers and expensive merchandise
  • Face recognition alerts notify operators when a face on premises matches that of a known offender or, conversely, when a face on-premises is not a recognized and authorized individual that is approved to enter a secure area, such as a stock room
  • License plate recognition alerts notify analytics operators if a vehicle license plate that is on a digital watchlist of past offenders has entered a loading dock or sensitive area


Real-time alerts can be sent automatically to relevant managers in a particular store location, or to a centralized hub at corporate headquarters – or both – to drive immediate and effective decision-making: If a central monitoring operator oversees activity in each store, he or she can dispatch the appropriate staff; if a service queue is too long, the customer service manager may be notified. If it is a security issue then either a security officer or the local police may be contacted. Corporate oversight of video feeds eliminates the need to have security guards at each store monitoring video feeds, which increases efficiency.

Merchandise Managers and Store Planners Get Footfall and Pathway Information

To make better buying decisions, merchandise managers need to know which products most popular and which aisles and product displays receive the most footfall traffic – all of which can be evaluated with video content analysis which can quantify traffic to product displays, calculate the average dwell times in various areas of a store, and generate visual heatmaps to illustrate how shoppers navigate the store floor and the heavily-trafficked pathways. This information also benefits store planners, so they can design store layouts that more effectively utilize the store space.

Marketing Obtains Accurate Traffic and Demographic Data

Some retailers rely on time-consuming surveys or anecdotal observations to track demographics and measure the effectivity of their marketing programs. Instead, they could use video content analytics to measure key performance data, such as which demographic groups (men, women, children) most commonly visit individual stores or all the stores in a chain. By counting footfall traffic – including unique, return and bounced visits – with video analytics, managers can identify whether on-site advertisements are driving traffic to the store, and integrate video analysis with point-of-sale data to find out whether traffic results in actual sales. Unique traffic intelligence is also key for obtaining accurate customer volume insight, that excludes employees.

Operations Managers Obtain Insight to Streamline Efficiencies

Operations managers play a key role in preventing foot traffic bottlenecks or crowding – especially important now, during the COVID19 pandemic, when social distancing is needed to safeguard workplace safety and public health. A video analytics system can be configured to trigger alerts based on 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. A manager can then investigate the crowding situation and resolve it by redirecting customers or by deploying more sales associates. To better understand when and where crowding hotspots occur, managers can review trend reports and develop contingency plans – or even simple signage! – to prevent crowding. The system can also keep track of line crossings at entrances and exits of a store, to manage building occupancy, thereby helping grocery store chains comply with local or state occupancy regulations.

In addition, video content analytics systems 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. For corporate headquarters, compliance stakeholders can easily evaluate violation trends and problem hotspots across sites and help individual branches develop solutions for promoting safety.

Many retailers already deploy a variety of technology solutions, such as footfall traffic counters, or point of sale records, that help them track KPIs and understand their customers’ buying habits. However, point solutions tend to be useful to only one or two departments, and even then, the information often remains siloed. In contrast, a video content analytics solution has numerous applications across a retail organization. The information from each branch or store can be aggregated and evaluated by an analytics team at corporate headquarters, so managers can compare patterns across stores, make strategic decisions, and plan for the future. Video surveillance data can be leveraged for more than just security and investigation: it can be powerfully harnessed by various management functions for meaningfully driving grocery store chain efficiencies, while increasing revenue, and improving customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty.

More on video analytics for retail businesses.