In-store video cameras revolutionised loss prevention when they first became available to retailers, but as camera technology continues to evolve, they can now provide a plethora of data that supports better business decisions.
Cameras have been historically promoted as a security option for forensic analysis of crimes such as property damage or shoplifting.
“That’s the way cameras have been for the last 20 years,” says Andre van Duiven, General Manager of Sektor Security. “Now, they’re effectively a sensor for the Internet of Things.”
Sektor distributes Axis Communications' range of intelligent network cameras, access control, IP audio and video products in New Zealand.
Van Duiven says that as well as continuing to provide standard surveillance for security purposes, Axis Communications’ new-generation smart security cameras, which are now really a full computer with a lens, provide an abundance of live data.
These can help retailers improve their businesses’ efficiency, and help management make better decisions.
This new development has moved security cameras away from being strictly the domain of the loss prevention team and towards having wider relevance to management.
The Axis smart cameras can carry out facial recognition, estimate age and gender, count how many people come through the front doors, count the number of shoppers in queues, and provide ‘heat map’ analysis of where customers linger in-store.
In the past, loss prevention teams were able to access footage of any criminal activity from in-store security cameras. This is still true, says van Duiven, but now Axis Communications’ technology means that the cameras can recognise known shoplifters’ faces and send a message to a nominated person when they enter a store.
On a more positive note, they can also point out ‘VIP’ customers so staff can pay them extra attention. Axis Communications has recently acquired analytics company Cognimatics, which allows it to offer an enhanced range of analytics support for its products. This includes hour by hour analytics on demographic trends served in-store.
“You can even get comparisons against industry norms,” says van Duiven. He says the smart cameras’ queue-length analysis feature will be particularly useful for retailers as it cuts down on a significant time-waster for staff, who would otherwise manually count the queue participants regularly.
“We’re reducing labour costs… while producing more refined data.” This information can also be cross-analysed with profits and sales to produce actionable insights, such as feedback on staffing levels. Specialised scheduling software is costly, says van Duiven, but the Axis Communications products can carry out many of the same functions.
Above-door people counting
The marketing and HR teams can also benefit from the “Rich Data” produced by the smart camera systems – they can even instantly view the actual customer for exception transactions, van Duiven says.
These products are able to provide insights to the Training and Development team on why a particular cashier may have a slower transaction rate – van Duiven says the reasons for this can be complex, citing one example where the cashier in question turned out to be bilingual, meaning their transaction rate was slowed by the many foreign customers who sought them out.
The cashier was recognised for this valuable service and given extra support. The effectiveness of digital signage marketing can be greatly improved when the demographic analytic is used to estimate the age and gender of the customer and change the advertising content accordingly.
The Axis Communications smart video cameras enable retailers to make decisions around operating their business more efficiently than they would without video data, says van Duiven.
The products are on-market now, with live demonstrations available through Sektor’s partner network. Contact Sektor on 0800 SEKTOR (735867) for a partner near you.
Article originally appeared in NZ Retail, Issue 753 and The Register, http://theregister.co.nz/news/2017/11/cameras-arent-just-security-anymore