Retailers are discovering new uses for security cameras in their stores, providing new information about customers, their shopping habits, and how they respond to in-store marketing.
By Neil Sutton
Roger Senecal, district asset protection manager for Boise, Ida.-area
Home Depot stores, has worked in retail security for two decades.
Security used to mean hiding behind pillars and spying on suspicious
employees and customers, but “the days of asset protection
professionals having to use binoculars, run cables and crawl through
the ceiling are over,” says Senecal, who spoke at the ISC West
conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Today’s IP cameras provide sharp images that can be used for security
investigations, and analytics software can be put to work for a variety
of purposes. For example, if an aisle or fire exit is blocked by a
stray pallet, video analytics software will notify staff so they can
They can also be used for human resources purposes. Cameras can catch
incidents of workplace violence, says Senecal, as well as substance
abuse or sexual harassment. They can also be used to assess worker
productivity and compliance with safety policies. “We can see how well
stores are managing (potentially) life-threatening activities” like
managing heavy equipment or moving large boxes, he says.
Alex Johnson, director of solution services for Verint, says that
retailers are beginning to realize the potential that IP cameras and
advanced software can provide. The number of customers entering a store
is sometimes recorded using a beam counter, but a camera-based system
can provide more detailed information. With the right system, a store
manager can know not only the number of visitors to his store, but also
the departments they visited, how long they spent there and how long
they lingered in front of a particular product layout or marketing
That information can be used to help managers plan store layouts,
optimize space and determine the best place to situate new products.
“We want to find ways to use video to solve problems (other than
crime),” says Johnson.
Advanced analytics are a relatively new phenomenon in security. “If we
were sitting here two years ago, people would have said video analytics
doesn’t work,” says Eric Fullerton, chief sales and marketing officer
for Milestone Systems. But evidence suggests that it is now working and
contributing positively towards retailer goals.
“Video is now becoming an ROI tool and not just a cost,” he says,
adding that users should only be thinking about IP-based video when
rolling out new systems or upgrading, since IP video is “futureproof.
Analogue is not.”
The use of IP video for store and customer analysis can be a boon, but
its value as a pure security solution should not be undervalued, says
Senecal. Security cameras are helping to reduce store theft and
“sweethearting” ”“ the practice of store employees offering unauthorized
deep discounts on products to friends or family ”“ but they can also be
used to thwart much more serious crimes. Shoplifters are sometimes also
involved in rape or murder cases and in-store video can be used to
positively identify and locate violent criminals.