AI-Driven Security Can Both Mitigate Retail Theft and Improve Business Operations
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail crime led to over $112 billion in losses in 2022, up from $93.9 billion in 2021. The NRF also reported that the average shrink rate for retailers increased from 1.4 percent to 1.6 percent over that span, with organized retail crime (ORC) cited as one of the primary culprits. Retailers across the nation have indicated that increasing theft — as well as violence — has forced them to take drastic action, including closing store locations, reducing operating hours, or changing the selection of products they offer. While some degree of shrink is anticipated, the problem is growing at an unsustainable rate.
Fortunately, retailers now have more security solutions than ever at their disposal — including many supported by advanced new artificial intelligence technology. Better still, today’s security technology often has applications that go far beyond reducing shrink. In many cases, they can improve the overall efficiency of the business and even provide critical operations and business intelligence insights.
Leveraging Surveillance for Security and Beyond
Surveillance cameras have come a long way over the past few decades. In the past, surveillance footage was primarily reviewed for evidence after a crime has already taken place. Modern video analytics has flipped the script, turning cameras into proactive security devices. Today’s cameras can be programmed to detect and alert on known signs of ORC activity, such as large groups entering near closing time, individuals loitering in high-value areas, or customers behaving aggressively as a diversionary tactic. Modern, AI-based analytics are extremely good at detecting patterns, which makes them good at picking up on unusual behavior — ranging from shoppers congregating near the jewelry counter to an employee repeatedly entering the stockroom without reason.
From a security perspective, these capabilities are invaluable. An integrated, AI-driven security system can be used to identify trespassers after hours and relay clear images to security or law enforcement. Sensors can be placed in low-traffic areas inside and outside the store, with a camera programmed to take a snapshot anytime the sensor is tripped. Audio solutions can even play a warning message, letting trespassers know they're being recorded — which is often enough to scare away would-be burglars before they can do any damage. If not, sensors designed to detect sounds like breaking glass can ensure law enforcement is informed the moment a potential crime is in progress. Together, these solutions can put a significant damper on ORC activity both during and outside of store hours.
Perhaps most importantly, these AI-driven capabilities have allowed security departments to add value to the business. Today’s analytics can help businesses better understand when their stores are busiest and schedule their employees appropriately. They can help them identify where bottlenecks exist and assist in better layout planning. They can help businesses determine which products are popular and which marketing campaigns are having the greatest impact. And stores like Aisle 24 are even using them to streamline the cashier-less checkout experience in a simple and secure manner. Modern surveillance devices aren’t just looking for signs of suspicious behavior; they’re helping retailers improve their efficiency and understand their customers throughout the decision-making process, generating valuable insights that can make a positive impact on their bottom line.
Leveraging AI to Stop ORC and Enhance Business Outcomes
Today’s AI-driven analytics are putting powerful new security capabilities in the hands of retailers, helping them identify signs of ORC activity that humans might struggle to recognize. These analytics can be integrated into broader security systems, creating a comprehensive solution capable of detecting suspicious activity in real time and providing security teams and law enforcement with timely and accurate information. Perhaps best of all, these capabilities can also be leveraged in ways that enhance the business itself, ensuring that security can be a value add for the organization, rather than a cost center.
James Stark is the segment development manager for retail at Axis Communications, the industry leader in video surveillance.
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James Stark is the Segment Development Manager for Retail at Axis Communications. In this capacity, he is responsible for developing strategies and building channel relationships to expand Axis' presence in the Americas retail market. Mr. Stark is a subject matter expert with dynamic experience spearheading cross-functional initiatives by leveraging business data analytics, strategic planning, and specialized systems and tools to optimize security measures, risk management, and customer experience. He brings more than 30 years working with the retail industry and specializes in loss prevention, safety, e-commerce fraud, and supply chain security.