How Retailers Can Give Us What We Really Want

By Andrew Elvish

In his work on exploring the shift from analog to digital production in music, author and musician Damon Krukowski laments the fact that he can no longer just drop into his local music store. While he’s quick to acknowledge that digital music and streaming platforms allow for greater exposure and innovation for artists, he also feels that something has been lost.

Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief and chairman of Monocle, would agree. He has said that, in the shift to online shopping, we as a society are undervaluing the pleasurable experiences of retail. Specifically, he feels that the experience of swinging the bag when you come out of the store and then going home to open it are missing from online shopping.

I’m a lot like them. While I enjoy the convenience of online shopping, I also appreciate the human interaction and unexpected finds of going into an actual brick and mortar store. Discovering something new or simply seeing something in the real world are part of the pleasure of a good shopping experience.

Interestingly, in an effort to stay competitive in our increasingly online world, retailers are taking note. In fact, many are doing their best to give Damon, Tyler, and me exactly what we want – and they’re using their physical security systems to help.

A Little Pampering Goes A Long Way
Years ago, retailers regarded security systems as a fact of doing business. Protecting their shrinkage numbers was a requirement in the same way that lights were. They deployed video surveillance as part of their loss prevention strategy, and that was it. But now they’re seeing that they can do more, and all the data being collected by their physical security systems and other sensors can play an important part. The key is to focus on providing the best possible customer experience.

Providing a top-notch customer experience doesn’t have to involve valet parking or champagne at the door. It can be much simpler things, like smooth navigation through the retail space and quick checkout lines. We, as consumers, want shopping to be easy and relaxing. We don’t want to stand around waiting to check out.

Given that we check out whenever we want online, standing in line to pay for our purchases seems unnecessary and maybe even a little antiquated. And, it turns out, long queues are bad for business.

No One Likes Waiting
Research shows that, when faced with long queues, customers can walk out of a shop because they don’t like even the idea of waiting. With this better understanding of customer behavior, the next step is to reduce or prevent long queues.

A great way to do this is by working with our retail intelligence tool to analyze the data being captured by your physical security system. Leveraging existing infrastructure, this relatively simple solution gives retailers the ability to track queues and alert staff if they get too long or if the average wait time exceeds their target.

This means that, in addition to opening up more registers or moving around clerks to meet short term demand, retailers can also vary staffing allocations to address known and predictable peaks in foot traffic over time. All of which leads to improved customer retention and better shopping experiences.

Forget The Line
But the solution isn’t always shorter queues; sometimes, it’s no queues at all.

In recent years, many retailers have switched to mobile Point of Sale (POS). In this case, employees carry portable card readers with them and can process a transaction anywhere within a store. This is great for customers as we can pay for our goods immediately, but it does present a new challenge for store owners.

Cash registers can be a site for many different types of theft. While we might think only of a thief grabbing money from the till, retailers also have to mitigate against losses due to employee fraud, including transactions occurring when no one is in line or if someone is handing out too many discounts.

In the past, it was relatively straightforward to secure a static POS. A retailer would install a camera, point it toward the register, and record. Now, with what are essentially movable registers, retailers need a new approach to security.

They must deploy a unified solution that can track and monitor mobile POS systems as well as collect and integrate data from multiple sensors. Then, in order to keep security teams agile, this solution must be able to push that correlated data to personnel wherever they may be.

Why Are People Lingering?
When it comes to competing directly with online stores, one area where digital retailers used to have an advantage was in their ability to gain insight into their customers’ habits. For example, by tracking how long they stayed on a particular page and then relating this to conversion rates, online retailers could develop a pretty clear picture of customer attitudes and behavior. Now, with dwell heat maps, brick and mortar stores can do the same.

A dwell heat map uses the data being captured by a store’s video surveillance system and other sensors to measure where and for how long customers linger. Then, using analytics tools that produce readable reports, retailers can answer important questions relating to store and display layout or effective placement.

When you understand how people move through your space, you can alleviate congestion by rearranging tables or shelving or you can improve service by ensuring that sales staff are always on hand where people tend to stop.

Whether it is using the data in their systems to reduce lines, eliminate queues, or tailor their spaces to meet our needs, retailers everywhere are focused on providing consumers with the best possible experiences. And, given what we know about how we feel about the pleasures of shopping, this can’t help but be a winning situation for everyone involved.

About The Author
Andrew Elvish is a columnist, explorer, and the Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at Genetec. Andrew has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and will surprise you with his knowledge of great restaurants all over the world.


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