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Intelligence Takes on a New Meaning for Retail Loss Prevention Technology

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asset protection-product shortages-shoplifting-pandemic-ecommerce-loss prevention

As retail evolves its digital and automated methods for servicing customers, the approach and the technologies protecting retail are getting a whole lot smarter.

Retail transactions are happening faster, and in many ways, it is a continuously evolving environment. Take staffing for example. Whether by choice or based on staffing shortages, retailers are tasked with finding new ways to service the customer with fewer staff members. At a time when supply shortages are common, now more than ever it is critical to keep products on the shelf. And while the product shortages will pass, any influx in merchandise availability is not likely to lead to retailers reverting back to the old ways of pre-pandemic service.

Similarly, while shopping online is by no means a new concept, the pandemic forced many retailers that were only dabbling in e-commerce to sink or swim with the concept, pushing them into the deep end. Whether through online commerce with direct shipping to customers or, as is known in retail, implementing a strategy for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store), many customers have accepted e-commerce as the new norm.

Asset protection data

Once data-poor, the retail world is now data-rich with expanded transaction details that allow for the learning of shopper patterns and habits, identifying their sizes and preferences while recognizing their likes and dislikes. In asset protection we are collecting similar detailed data on merchandise frequently stolen from shelves, hijacked from trucks, or diverted online.

In the past, the challenge with all this information was time. Regardless of how valuable the information was to us, it would still take significant time for someone to compile, sort, prioritize, interpret, and absorb the available data, and then turn it into a valued and productive resource. Naturally, this made it all the more necessary to leverage technology to both accomplish our goals and learn from the available information. Enter the world of artificial intelligence — machines digging through the details, identifying patterns and trends, and driving smart data to make intelligent decisions. This is new world of retail and the future of retail loss prevention.

The function of loss prevention and asset protection has evolved from a “necessary evil,” once only thought crucial to deter shoplifters, into a true business partner and business analyst, supporting cross-function analysis and identifying opportunities to improve loss across the entire enterprise.

Smart systems can now be utilized for everything from reducing the cost of returns in the stores to identifying patterns of fraudulent online sales and even watching and interpreting video to identify when merchandise is leaving the stores with or without payment. These systems can now be used to engage the public, sharing information and reducing liability while increasing the overall safety of the business. These enhancements help the retail company make smarter decisions, improving the customer experience while helping control losses and increase profitability. And as the technology advances, we learn to better use all the resources at our disposal, taking our decisions, our efficiencies, and our results to another level.

Intelligent teams, intelligent communities 

These times have also pushed many to the brink of bad situations and poor decisions. Whether desperation or greed is the motivator, there are those that will take advantage of the current circumstances for illicit gain. Fueled by “progressive” regulation changes (or a lack thereof), poor response by law enforcement, and lighter retail staffing in many retail establishments, there has been an explosion in brazen shoplifting attempts, smash and grabs, and organized retail crime. Many retailers were ill-prepared to handle the situation, making it easier for these organized groups to profit at the expense of the retailer and the potential safety of store employees and retail customers.

Fortunately, many retailers are actively engaged in sharing intelligence about these issues with smart technologies that support identifying patterns and trends. Where it matters most, competitors are working together as colleagues to learn from each other and protect both their stores and the communities they serve.

Smart sharing is also extending well beyond the retail community, with greater collaboration and connectivity between retailers and our law enforcement partners. Technology has led to improved data sharing, smart alerts, networking, and educational tools while helping build essential relationships and progressive investigations. These efforts, fueled by the nation’s organized retail crime associations (ORCAs) and other essential collaborations are making our communities safer, more engaged, and more productive.

Change is inevitable, but it’s also vital to progress. Technology is the tool, but it’s only as powerful as the hands — and minds — that use it. Moving forward with open eyes and open minds is the smart way to go. Smart keeps us flexible. It keeps us competitive. It keeps us safe. As retail continues to evolve and we find new and better ways to serve our customers and protect the business, our approach must evolve as well. The technologies protecting retail are getting a whole lot smarter, and we need to step up and meet the challenge. When we do, intelligence takes on greater meaning — in many different ways.

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