Intelligent Surveillance is the Future of Customer Service, Sales and Security.
In today’s modern world, we’ve come to accept surveillance as a part of normal life, both on the streets and online. We know everything we do online is monitored, with companies cataloguing, leveraging and monetising our data at every turn. And for the most part, we don’t mind and consider it the price we have to pay for the freedom the digital world affords us. Most people won’t bother reading website cookie terms of service but are more interested in getting rid of the annoying pop-up blocking half their screen. While many are happy to log-onto a site using their Google or Facebook account, oblivious to what powers this gives companies and the access it grants them to your private information.
But there are some customer-centric benefits to data collection with a focus on enhancing our interactions. Companies collect our information to hone in on data that will help to improve customer experience and ultimately increase customer retention. This is particularly true for e-commerce companies who channel a large amount of energy into ensuring they streamline their user experience (UX) and customers have a positive interaction with their brand. But outside of the digital landscape, brick and mortar stores haven’t had the same luxury. They have been forced to compete with not only the convenience of online stores but also their advantage with data supremacy. So how do we bridge the gap between the real world and the digital realm?
Today, surveillance is evolving further to include what we do offline and translating this into actionable data to help retail companies have a competitive edge. Intelligent surveillance aggregates information about in-store actions and behaviours to gain a deeper insight into their customers. This data is then used to evaluate the customer experience and improvements that can be implemented to drive sales. It covers everything from people counting data; footfall and customer aisle routes; dwell time at shelves, checkouts and queues; POS conversion rates and behaviour patterns to name a few. By using these advanced analytics, retailers can potentially increase customer interactions by up to 3 times, helping them to sell more products.
Some of the intelligent surveillance methods that retailers are now using include:
- Thermal imaging: this is a technology that tracks patterns in customer movement throughout the store. It provides a precise and detailed report showing areas of dense movement in comparison to those of sparse movement.
- Device-based tracking: arguably one of the more intrusive customer monitoring methods, it works by linking into our mobile device’s unique identifier to track individual shoppers through the store.
- Computer vision: gives a clear understanding of consumers purchasing preferences by monitoring which specific items are being removed from shelves as well as which items they are putting back.
- Wi-Fi: by giving customers access to free in-store wifi, when logging-on, they are sharing their unique MAC (media access control) address with the provider. If they opt to log-on using a social channel such as Facebook, they are granting permission for personal information to be captured.
- Floor sensors: gives retailers an accurate measurement of footpath and engagement time by location in the store.
- Apps: if they use mobile payment software, retailers have the power to geographically and temporally identify customers and their buying patterns.
- Radio frequency identification transmitters: which many will assume are theft-prevention devices but also double-up to enable detection of product movement and location, e.g. if an item of clothing is moved from a rack to the changing room.
- Emotional capture technology: uses advanced facial recognition features to analyse facial expressions and determine the emotional or cognitive state of shoppers.
Retail Security in London
Other benefits include advanced anti-theft capabilities, which are currently being piloted as a method of advanced retail security in London and other big cities. This extends not only to customers but also to staff theft, which according to statistics is five times higher than customer theft. From a security point of view, an obvious downfall is its capabilities can only go so far and it cannot completely replace the human presence needed to deter and deal with criminal activity after detection. However, it is still hugely beneficial as its advanced detection features will make intercepting and stopping retail theft much easier.
Outside of using this data to drive sales and for company benefit, it also serves to improve customer experience. It will essentially turn stores into offline websites and increase their capability of giving us what we want, when we want it and how we want it. The most successful retailers in the industry consider customer experience the most important measure of performance, which is why we are likely to see intelligent surveillance booming in the not so distant future!