Eliminate False Alarms From Your Display Units
This retailer eliminated false alarms from its display units by implementing a power alarm system.
If your electronic products are on display for demonstration in your store, chances are you use some form of power alarm system to protect them. Power alarm systems have become a standard in high-shrink security. The expandable cords allow the alarm to securely protect merchandise without affecting your customer's prepurchase handling of the product. The system provides continuous electric power to the products so customers can examine their features and functionality. It acts as a visual deterrent as customers interact with the display, and it is activated only when a product is detached from its base. The system will not interfere with your customer's browsing experience — at least, it shouldn't.
Ralph Perez, director of asset protection at Sony Electronics, dealt with defective alarm systems in 58 of its 66 Sony Style stores. Sony Style is a multichannel retailer, which sells Sony electronics such as cell phones, digital cameras, PlayStation gaming systems, and laptops. The company prides itself on its customer-friendly interactive environment. Customers are encouraged to handle and inspect products on display. In fact, cell phones and digital cameras have their own display units called the Phone Bar and the DI (digital imaging) Bar respectively. "We experienced a problem with our Phone and DI Bar alarm systems," says Perez. "An audible alarm activated even though a security risk was not imminent. The system was too sensitive and activated haphazardly — when a customer pulled the product too hard toward him or bumped the display unit."
Can False Alarms Affect Customer Service?
The DI Bar alarm activated several times per week in most store locations. The Phone Bar's alarm sounded routinely every day. The alarms are purposely loud and disruptive to thwart actual theft attempts. Though not all alarms were false, reacting to them became a time-consuming nuisance. As alarms became more frequent, sales associates knew they were probably false. Yet, they were tasked with approaching the display bars immediately to determine the alarm's status. "Deactivating the alarm system was cumbersome and inconvenient because the system itself was hard to access," says Perez. "Sales associates had to crawl underneath the display unit to dismantle wires until the noise stopped — all the while worrying if their customers had left the store." Sometimes sales associates left the system in its dismantled state because they had to return to their customers, or they did not know how to reactivate the system. If the latter were true, the vendor's local technician had to visit the store to reactivate the system.
The retailer's alarm system caused not only a security risk, but also a potential loss in sales. The retailer does not rely on batteries to power its display products, as monitoring battery power levels for several products is inefficient. Therefore, each product was charged overnight using the manufacturer's AC adapters. The AC adapters had many cords, which were hazardous and unsightly. With promotions, special sales, and other staff tasks to perform after hours, it was typical for sales associates to overlook the cumbersome nightly recharging task. Without power, the products did not function the following day, rendering products featureless. "We rely on these features to help sell phones," says Perez. "The 'wow factor' was gone when a customer picked up an inoperable phone."
By June 2007, Perez had enough with the existing alarm system. He wanted not just an alarm system, but also a system that provided a continuous source of electric power for each device. After researching several companies, he chose the G3 (generation three) power alarm system from Vanguard Products Group, an electronic security systems provider. The G3 power alarm system provides both alarm and regulated power to each displayed product while simultaneously securing the device. The G3 includes several components, some of which are out of the customer's sight, as they are mounted to the inside wall of the Phone and DI Bars. The remaining components are customer-facing, mounted to the outside of the Bars. Internal components include a power supply (i.e. it plugs into a regular electrical socket built right into the Bars), a power and alarm box measuring 14.4-by-3.7-by-2 inches with slots for 12 cables (each slot resembles a telephone jack slot), a retracting cord reel, and a cord reel clamp. The external component is a post for mounting display products. The internal and external components are connected via 30 inches of retractable cable, which runs through a small hole in each Bar. For example, a Phone Bar that displays 12 cell phones has one power supply, one 12-slot power and alarm box, 12 cable reels, 12 cord reel clamps, 12 30-inch cables (30 inches is the standard length for retractable cords), and 12 posts.
The Phone Bar and DI Bar received the same G3 system. However, the posts are different. The Phone Bar post is 2.3 inches tall, and a cell phone attaches directly to it. The DI Bar uses a self-centering riser base in addition to its post. The post is mounted to the display fixture, with the 3-inch riser base attached to it. The camera is mounted to the riser. All Sony Style display cameras face the same direction. No matter what direction a customer returns a camera to its fixture, the riser base will orient it back to its original position.
The G3 continuously delivers a charge specific to each model, as each one has different power requirements. This keeps the device running throughout the day. Also, the system comes with battery backup so the product remains secure during loss of power.
The vendor performed and completed the installation in 58 stores by September 2007, and the deadline was met. Vanguard technicians installed the system in all Phone Bars and DI Bars in approximately 3 hours per store. They completed the installation after operating hours, as they used noisy power tools to retrofit the Bars to meet the new system's specifications.
Purchase An Alarm System Your Staff Can Operate
Sales associates now have the ability to put new products on display without activating the alarm. For situations just like this, the power and alarm box comes with a key to manually activate/deactivate the alarm. For example, to swap one cell phone with another, first, a sales associate manually deactivates the alarm with the key. Then, they dismantle the cell phone from its post by disabling the retractable cord. Next, they attach the retractable cord to the new cell phone. Finally, they manually reactivate the alarm. "Just recently, we ran a PlayStation back-to-school program whereby we transformed our Phone Bar into a PlayStation Bar," says Perez. "Our sales associates were able to disarm the phone displays and activate the PlayStations quickly and easily. They completed the entire project in 2 hours before we opened the store."
Perez is considering implementing Vanguard's video messaging system, which is a digital signage solution that displays product information in each of its stores (see sidebar on page 25). Since Sony Style stores implemented the G3 power and alarm system, all false alarms have been eliminated. The cell phones receive a continuous source of power, alleviating sales associates of the added responsibility to manually charge them every night. "Employee satisfaction is high because sales associates no longer have to rush to disarm false alarms several times a day," says Perez. "Also, they no longer have to leave their customers unattended." Customer satisfaction is high because customers receive uninterrupted customer service. The shopping experience has been enhanced because display products perform like the demo tools they were intended to be. Finally, Sony Style had a 27% increase in DI Bar product sales since implementing the G3 system.
While power alarm systems are a useful loss prevention tool, they provide a distinct merchandising advantage as well — they allow you to display your merchandise so your customers can examine it freely, which could lead to increased sales.