Compiled by Debbie Hauss
Video analytics have become a vital component of many retail operations, providing the ability to track in-store activities and help retailers provide better customer service, improved merchandising and more effective loss prevention. Recently Retail TouchPoints had the opportunity to discuss this topic with Verlin Youd, the SVP, Sales and marketing for SCOPIX, a video analytics technology provider.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How are today’s video analytics products addressing the key challenges in retail?
Verlin Youd: First, the most critical business requirement for today’s retailers is delivering compelling customer service ― a customer experience that keeps customers loyal and coming back for more, from any and all channels including stores, web and mobile. In e-commerce, and now mobile, retailers have become accustomed to a rich array of information and metrics to understand customer service and take action to drive results.
However, retailers have long struggled with any kind of measurement, let alone a set of metrics, to understand what really happens in a store. Thanks to recent developments, video analytics can now deliver similar relevant metrics and actionable information for the in-store customer experience. Based on live, in-store video, a retail centric video analytics solution can now capture, analyze and report what is happening throughout the store, not just at the entrance/exit, point of sale, and in labor management systems. At the same time, the accuracy of these solutions has increased dramatically and now can deliver 95% accuracy compared to 70% for legacy solutions.
Information available from these solutions range from the smallest detail to valuable summaries, backed up by actual video frames, across a wide range of customer service metrics, including time to engage, length of engagement, results of engagement, employee-to-customer ratios, scheduling compliance and effectiveness, impact to sales and much more. These solutions can now address in-stock/out-of-stock from the most important point of view, the customer’s. Similarly, planogram and promotional set-up and compliance can be measured in a fact-based, customer-centric approach versus error prone processes of the past. Using the same technologies, retailers can now manage queues at checkout, customer service and other high customer service locations throughout a store.
RTP: Are most retailers using video analytics solutions primarily for the business benefits you just mentioned, or is Loss Prevention the key focus — or is it a combination of the two? Please explain.
Youd: Great question. You are correct that the legacy focus of in-store video has been loss prevention and not customer service. Video Analytics leaders are now focused on things that drive business growth, including customer service. Currently installed loss prevention solutions require significant manual review and processes to deliver a total solution. On the other hand, leading video analytics solutions have leveraged technology innovations in digital/IP video and cloud/on-demand computing to develop and deliver easy to implement, natural to use, high-impact and strong ROI solutions. These video analytics solutions can now be used to drive customer growth rather than just measure and prevent loss.
RTP: Can you talk about some specific metrics retailers are able to measure as a result of video analytics implementations? Provide specific examples if possible.
Youd: There is a wide range of actionable information and metrics being used by SCOPIX’s current customers, everything from time to initial engagement to sales conversion. One customer, a well-known high service sporting goods retailer, is using the time to initial engagement metric to drive a cultural transformation that is now resulting in an average sales growth of 8-12% in departments where deployed. Another customer, a regional convenience store chain, has dramatically decreased customer wait times at checkout resulting in both sales and profit increases in the short term and substantial impact to customer loyalty for the long term. A large grocery customer has leveraged out-of-stock and planogram compliance to drive substantial increases in performance of their bakery. The critical quality of good video analytic solutions is the ability to provide highly accurate information the specific level of detail needed to take action, not just lots of data. Detailed information can be provided down to the product/SKU, shelf, department, category, store, time of day, day of week, week, year and more.
RTP: What are some of the key advancements that have been made recently in the area of video analytics?
Youd: Significant innovation has taken place in video analytics over the last few years. Today’s digital cameras are able to deliver resolution and performance that was just a wish a few years’ ago. Critical advances in communications, cloud/on-demand computing, and the acceptance of software as a service have all impacted the viability and usability of video analytics solutions. As for SCOPIX, we’ve driven innovation in video processing, image recognition, differentiation of people and product, data volume management, data accuracy and other retail specific factors. These innovations, combined with strong market adoption of IP based digital video over the last few years and the success of cloud-based solutions like Salesforce.com, Webex (a Cisco Company), and others have made video analytic solutions scalable and supportable across the largest of retail enterprises.
RTP: Can you comment on the value of IP camera technology vs. analog? Is SCOPIX partnering with any specific IP hardware/camera providers?
Youd: Interesting question. To me, it seems like comparing computers to calculators. Both have their place, both can exist in the market, but one provides much greater overall value and capability than the other, including the ability to do everything the other can do. That’s how I see IP camera technology. The advances in just the last couple of years have resulted in a set of devices and management systems that have the power, flexibility, supportability, and scalability to take on all of the applications previously handled by analog and so much more. For those that have a large install base on analog technology and don’t have any plans for replacement, there are converter solutions that can bridge the temporary gap. Otherwise, I believe significant new investments in analog camera technology in-store will be the exception and not the rule. SCOPIX has a very strong partnership with Cisco, the market leader in digital communications globally, and we support their video offerings. SCOPIX has developed our solutions using industry standards, so we are able to support all other industry standard video management technologies.
RTP: What role is the “Cloud” playing in the delivery of video analytics solutions?
Youd: The Cloud is driving significant business transformation, in video analytics and well beyond. Ten years ago who would have thought that most of us would trust critical professional and personal information and processes in such an environment. This is absolutely the case with video analytics as well. Why incur the immediate and on-going expense of in-house complex system implementation, installation and support to handle the demands of video retrieval, storage, processing, reporting and exporting when the alternative is so economically compelling? As a retailer there is very low probability that your company’s core competency is installation and support of such complex systems. With the Cloud, you can get all of the benefits, much faster return on investment, increased flexibility, and focus your resources where it counts ― being a stronger retailer.
RTP: What types of retailers are benefiting the most from the use of video analytics? Is it affordable and beneficial for very small retailers?
Youd: We are finding that the SCOPIX offering has direct and immediate benefits to all types of retailers. We have customers in sporting goods, home improvement, grocery, and convenience stores and are currently working with an even broader range of retailers to start implementations as well. Honestly, we haven’t found a segment that can’t benefit from the use of video analytics to address the largest issue in retail and use The New Metric — Customer Service™.
RTP: You have vast experience in the retail industry. What motivated you to move to a video analytics solution provider, and Scopix specifically?
Youd: I guess “vast” is a good word and isn’t too age specific, right? You are correct, I’ve spent a lot of time in and around retail solutions, from Point of Sale to ERP, from software to hardware and service, and everything in between. Throughout my entire career I have always been on the lookout for companies that drive real value into the hands of the retailer by addressing previously unsolved issues and found a way to work with those companies, through partnership or otherwise. In this case, SCOPIX is not only one the forefront of retail video analytics, but they are also delivering compelling, fast payback ROI in an environment that is and will remain critical to most retailers, the store. The ingredient that sealed the deal was an extraordinarily strong and committed management team who are passionate about retail solutions and as committed to customer centricity and partnership as I.
RTP: What differentiates SCOPIX in the marketplace?
Youd: SCOPIX is focused on solutions that deliver actionable information to drive in-store customer service and sales results using a set of technologies, capabilities, delivery and level of accuracy (98%+) that is unique in the market. Companies that some would consider competition continue to be primarily focused on the legacy of security and loss prevention. At SCOPIX we know that retail leaders of today and in the future will need a maniacal focus on customer service and we are committed to providing the solutions they use to measure and take action.
RTP: Is there anything we haven’t discussed about video analytics, your move to Scopix or the retail industry in general that you would like to comment on?
Youd: What we’ve talked about is really just scratching the surface of the uses and benefits of video analytics. Although I can’t go into detail, we have plans to deliver innovative capabilities far beyond today’s compelling offering. If you are a retailer who believes that increased understanding and execution of customer service can impact your business and you want actionable and accurate customer centric information to drive your plans, you should give us a call and see how SCOPIX can help you be successful today and tomorrow.