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Small Solutions Can Mean Big Business For Retail

  • Written by  Hedgie Bartol, Axis Communications

1axisThe bigger the business, the bigger the security system, right? Wrong.

There’s been a long-standing misconception that large-scale retailers need large-scale surveillance solutions, and small systems are strictly for the mom-and-pop shops. Oftentimes, retailers feel “trapped” by their size and forced into generic solutions because they think there is no other way. That is certainly not the case anymore.

As retailers become more diverse by the day and adopt a variety of cutting edge business models, store set-ups and customer experiences, the ideas of big and small have gone out the window. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to retail security, and luckily, security and surveillance technology has adapted alongside this new era of retail.

With IP-based systems becoming baseline, we are seeing the advent of out-of-the-box solutions that have the ability to scale to a large enterprise, opening up new doors for retailers of every size who take this hybrid approach.

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Let’s take a look at an example of this approach in action.  Say a large coffee chain has close to 16,000 locations. If each of those locations has five cameras, that results in 80,000 cameras across the chain. That’s certainly a lot of cameras, but the installation footprints are small and easily managed. Today’s small systems cameras have the ability to be independent video recording devices (no DVR necessary,) and users can monitor their retail sites right from their phone. What this coffee chain realizes is that essentially, it doesn’t need enterprise-class solutions on-site in order to be effective.

What About Smaller Retailers?

Small businesses have often been hesitant to adopt IP-based security solutions because of cost, installation and maintenance concerns. However, hybrid solutions make adopting network video systems easier, more cost-effective and lower-risk for retailers with basic surveillance needs.

These retailers gain an easily manageable solution with enterprise-grade results. 

The key is simplicity; retailers want to focus on running their operation without the hassle of having to deploy very large systems that require a lot of time and resources to manage from soup to nuts. 

With shrink continuing to be one of the biggest and most costly problems for retailers of every size, the new hybrid options available provide business owners with peace of mind, knowing they don’t have to be stuck in a big box but instead can tailor their approach to protecting assets and employees the way they need to. When retailers have the right system in place, loss prevention is not the only benefit they’ll see. Here are a few more perks to having an IP-based hybrid solution:

  • Higher Image Resolution: Old analog cameras (think grainy video footage) made it difficult, and at times impossible, to discern identifiable characteristics of a perpetrator.  With IP-enabled cameras, retailers can now retrieve clearer and sharper details from camera footage, such as distinguishable tattoos, logos on hats, even eye color, to help law enforcement teams apprehend a potential shoplifter faster and more accurately.

  • Open Technology: Analytics associated with IP cameras are able to integrate with other retail operating systems, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems. This enables the retailers to monitor a potential situation in which a cashier may be, for example, under-ringing items to customers, or participating in “sweethearting” — that is, ringing up items to friends and family members at lower costs.

  • Interoperability: IP camera analytics can also integrate with other systems in a retail setting to monitor areas of a store that are more prone to shrink than others.  For example, retailers can monitor a person walking down an aisle and send automated announcements to let that person know they are being surveyed, diminishing any thoughts they may have had previously to shoplift.

  • Traffic Analysis/Heat Mapping: Imagine the benefit of having someone sitting in your ceiling watching and recording everything happening in your store.  What would you do with the knowledge of where people are going in your store?  What areas are the "hottest" areas and where are the least active areas?  Being able to verify your store design in a quantifiable manner would allow you to effectively lay out your planograms in a way that is most effective for driving sales.  In addition, knowing where the least amount of activity is could alert you to areas where people may potentially conceal items as well — once again, multi-purposing your existing investment in cameras and utilizing them beyond security.

The untapped potential of small systems is far too great to remain under the radar. It’s time for retailers big and small to think outside the box and take notice. Adopting this approach means benefits well outside the realm of loss prevention and could mean big business for retailers. The possibilities are truly endless.


Hedgie Bartol, LPQ (Loss Prevention Qualified,) serves as a business development manager for the retail segment in North America at Axis Communications. In this role, he works closely with partners and retailers on strategic surveillance installations designed to maximize loss prevention and streamline business operations. Bartol joined the company in July of 2011 after years of being an avid Axis advocate and industry pundit while in sales and business development roles at Milestone Systems and Diebold. He brings more than 15 years of expertise serving the retail loss prevention industry, with expertise in different retail-specific solutions from access control, identity management and fraud prevention technologies to systems integration, video management software and network camera technologies.

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