An underperforming high street: can technology tempt customers back?

Andy Martin, Morphean's Retail Segment Leader, discusses how VSaaS isn't just keeping staff and customers safe; it also provides the intelligenc that can enhance the instore experience.

The current pressure being faced by the high-street is undeniable. The sector as a whole is changing at a relentless pace, with the shift to online shopping leaving one in four British shoppers disillusioned with bricks and mortar stores, suggesting they will abandon them altogether by 2021 .

While staff and customer safety continue to be critical, many retailers are now wising up to the fact that consumers are now demanding a more immersive and obstacle-free shopping experience. The advent of "frictionless shopping" demands that the controls that prevent theft have never been more essential. So failing to invest in loss prevention is not an option. Retailers need to deliver greater business value out of the existing technology services; utilising physical security technology in new and innovative ways could be the answer.

Enhancing in-store safety

It is perhaps obvious to state that, first and foremost, physical security technology such as IP cameras and audio devices are commonly deployed to protect staff and customers. The Association of Convenience Stores' (ACS) annual Crime Report found that, in the last year alone, there were 13,437 violent attacks on convenience store workers, of which 27% involved a weapon and 39% led to injury. Many retail outlets will therefore already have some form of physical security technology installed to mitigate such threats, usually CCTV, but it is clear this is no longer enough.

Technology has progressed rapidly, and stores can enhance their physical security processes by switching from analogue to digital, installing IP cameras and audio systems to help deal with in store crime. Furthermore, by
making use of the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced analytics tools can monitor video footage in real-time to identify suspicious behaviour. This is known as Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS), and the benefit of this is that it can deliver real-time analysis of an incident that could stop a potential threat from escalating further, something impossible to achieve when viewing video footage retrospectively. One thing that traditional CCTV has always struggled to do is to amplify the risk of detection to an offender. IoT allows this with smart analytics linking video to audio intervention and digital display graphics as an example.

How can retailers tempt customers back to the high street?

So now your store is safe, how can you make it smart? The good news is that this can be achieved by utilising the same innovative VSaaS platforms. This was recently shown in an independent survey of 1,500 IT decision-makers in the UK, France and Germany, which highlighted that retailers are beginning to realise the operational benefits of physical security technology, and they are loving the results. The survey found that 91% of respondents were possibly or definitely considering moving physical security technology, such as video surveillance and access control, to the cloud.

Interestingly, 96% also felt it was important or very important that their physical security solutions meet their overall business objectives, maximising sales and creating the right shopping environment, for example. This shows that the case for VSaaS is particularly strong for retail in 2019. For example, using in-store surveillance systems to identify changes in customer habits and behaviours and optimise staff resources is incredibly powerful and can help to re-engage high-street shoppers.

Beyond the real-time benefits, collecting this data enables retailers to predict future patterns and use effective marketing techniques to maximise the opportunity to engage with customers. Furthermore, administrators can set alerts for events such as queues building up in certain areas, or low stock availability on shelves. Customer movement around stores can also be monitored and improved using information from VSaaS systems. The retailers that are winning on the High Street are connecting better with their customers and providing great service.

Today's innovative technologies can help retailers embrace surveillance data beyond physical security. VSaaS gives retailers the opportunity to overcome new challenges by making use of the increased amount of data hosted in the cloud and analysed by machines. Actionable video is delivering actionable data, which in turn can deliver a safer and improved in-store experience for customers.

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