Retail analytics – moving video surveillance beyond security and towards essential business insights
Julian Rutland, European NVS Marketing Director at Canon Europe Ltd.
Video surveillance is essential in retail, successfully helping prevent theft and ensuring the safety of staff and customers – but with more retailers switching over to IP cameras from analogue, there’s now huge potential to benefit from retail analytics, a multi-million dollar industry in its own right, by adding extra capabilities to traditional surveillance solutions.
Several well-known department stores and supermarkets are already using video-based analytics and seeing significant returns on their investment and benefits far beyond security. There’s an opportunity for many more stores to capitalise on the possibilities of retail analytics, but they need the right support from the security industry.
The current state of retail analytics
Retail analytics already available in surveillance technologies include a variety of functions, such as hotspot detection and facial recognition, which retailers can use to give insight into areas like customer age and in-store behaviour. Network camera manufacturers are supporting this development with inbuilt intelligent analytics, while video management systems can take these analytics to the next level.
The challenge facing security installers and integrators
When I first entered the industry, people were just starting to talk about analytics, but now it’s a reality. The technology is there and ready to go, but the challenge for installers and integrators is that, instead of just approaching a retailer’s security teams, adding more advanced surveillance solutions means that they need to discuss the options with several stakeholders from all the different departments that will benefit. Marketing, IT and security all need to be educated on the benefits of retail analytics and how they can offer significant return on investment, before they will invest.
There’s no magic fix, but it helps that retail analytics systems are scalable. Once companies are aware of how business processes can be improved through analytics, they can buy individual components and then build up their system over time, when they’ve seen for themselves the value of the system. A retailer can start with a simple system like a single wide angle of view network camera integrated with people counting analytics to monitor the entrance to the store.
They can then compare footfall at different times and on different days to gain insight and identify busy periods in their store. These basic insights are already being used by some, like the Nama supermarket in Slovenia, to help target events, promotions and new product displays to the most customers at busy periods in the day. The data provided by this kind of installation can also inform decisions on how many staff to hire and what times of day require more staff, through to monitoring for when orders of new stock should be placed. Solutions like this provide smaller retailers, who often have the least insight into their customers, with the opportunity to use analytics without the complexity of a more in-depth system.
For larger retailers, basic systems can be developed further down the line by adding external analytics capabilities such as heat mapping, which shows hotspots around the store that can be used to inform store layout and product placement. Retailers can even add other sophisticated systems that can automatically notify managers when stock runs low, or track what products are being picked up and how long customers spend in different areas. There’s huge scope for development, but installers need to start simple when explaining the possibilities to retailers. By taking a step-by-step approach in introducing analytics to retailers, installers and integrators can reduce upfront costs for businesses and open a window for repeat business as retailers invest further and build out a more comprehensive solution.
Finally, with different parts of these retail solutions coming from different companies, installers need to be sure that when they put the solution together, the whole thing will work. As a result, manufacturers like Canon are partnering with video management software companies in order to provide tried-and-tested solutions that offer these sorts of advanced insight opportunities. For example, one partner Canon is working with is NETAVIS. By providing a dedicated retail solution, that produces results that inform sales, marketing and operations as well as traditional surveillance uses like keeping people and goods safe. The partnership is so successful because the quality of Canon cameras helps the NETAVIS analytics to work as accurately as possible. As a result, installers save a lot of time and effort testing combinations, because the manufacturer has done that leg work for them.
Why are retail analytics important for the future?
With the growing power of online retailers like Amazon, brick and mortar stores need to adapt to keep up with the competition, and retail analytics are a key part of this. These online retailers have staggering amounts of information on their customers, which many physical stores simply don’t have. Camera based analytics are always developing, and security integrators and installers need to recognise and embrace the opportunity to get involved in this highly profitable industry.