Big Data Takes Over NRF-LP
By Bob Johns, associate editor
I recently attended the National Retail Federation’s Loss Prevention Conference & Expo in New Orleans. With all of the latest technology innovations, I was extremely excited to see what was new in the LP retail space. From solar-powered cameras by MicroPower Technologies to fully integrated digital and analog video from Sony, I was not disappointed. The advancements in IP video, smart safes, alarm systems, EAS, and all of the LP-associated software solutions were outstanding.
One thing that did stand out was the focus on Big Data and analytics. We have been hearing a lot about Big Data recently, but very rarely have the discussions been focused on LP. Although, with global shrink rates up over 6.5%, it makes sense that LP departments would need access to as much data as possible to prevent loss and fraud. As more intelligent systems are added to LP and operations, the data collected can be staggering. IP cameras capture data for exception reporting, traffic counting, facial recognition, dwell time, traffic patterns, and a myriad of other data points. All of this data is combined with RFID tracking, EAS systems, alarm events, POS, sales, inventory systems, and even marketing data. Combining all of this data, and refining it into an actionable format, is the challenge vendors are confronting for their customers.
I spoke with numerous vendors that have noticed the evolution of LP in the c-suite and beyond. With Big Data crossing the numerous verticals within the retail business structure, the buying process also has changed. No longer is a retailer having the LP department investigate a solution by themselves. IT, operations, and even marketing department heads are also brought into the search. For the first time, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are involved in the purchase decision. LP executives face shrinking budgets that are increasingly scrutinized. By showing the cross-vertical benefits of the solutions within the retail structure, budgets can be co-opted and approvals can be won. All of this data is already being collected by the newer solutions, and now it is time for retailers to seize and act on it.
Retailers are finally beginning to take a more holistic approach to their solutions by asking how the solutions help the entire business. If we take IP cameras, and the associated analytics available, we see that LP benefits by identifying slip, trip, and fall hazards; viewing the safes and registers; watching for shoplifters; and spotting employee theft. From an operations standpoint, the retailer can tell how many people are coming into the store, are they taking time to focus on displays, are they purchasing products from the displays, are displays and shelves filled, and what areas of the store are generating the most traffic. From a marketing standpoint, the company can tell if signage is drawing attention, if coupons are being used, if traffic is increasing with certain advertising, and if associates are engaging customers on promotions. This doesn’t even touch on the out-of-stock positions and backroom inventory that can be tracked by the fulfillment and supply chain department.
True LP-only solutions are on the way out as new solutions benefit retailers across departments, saving time, money, and creating a better customer environment. As retailers begin to capitalize on the data that is coming in, vendors are working to make more of this data actionable for the entire retail enterprise.