Theft and shrinkage have been causing big losses for in retail. According to a 2020 BRC survey, crime alone had cost retailers £1 billion in 2019 and a whopping £1.2 billion was spent on crime prevention.
Technological advances are among some of the most effective loss prevention methods as they are reducing shrinkage, catching shoplifters, as well as identifying employee theft, all without compromising customer experience in-store.
Let’s consider the top 5 emerging technologies for loss prevention:
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a technology which attaches unique identifiers to individual products in order to identify and track them. It is currently one of the most popular choices of technologies among retailers when trying to reduce losses and increase insights into the causes of losses.
RFID technology can provide accurate insights into the whereabouts of each item at any given time. Thus, it can reveal when, where, and possibly the how of each theft. This data can empower retailers to be more proactive. For example, if a particular shelf is repeatedly targeted by shoplifters, the retailer can place a camera facing this shelf or a staff member.
The discrete nature of RFID tags means no one is aware of where the tag is placed on the product and can therefore be deterred from stealing altogether. If not deterred, with an alert to staff when unsold items leave the store, there is a higher chance of catching the shoplifter and retrieving the item.
Though 81% of US retailers believe RFID is helpful for inventory control, it can be clearly helpful for loss prevention also.
Exception-based video alerting technology is showing the highest potential for loss prevention in retail.
CCTV cameras have reduced shoplifting drastically. However, AI video analytics, which can analyse the behaviour of shoplifters and employees, alert staff of suspicious activities, and provide evidence, has been a gamechanger.
Real-time alerts allow security staff to deal with shoplifting before they occur or before the shoplifter has a chance to leave with the product. Security will be alerted when a product is being concealed under a jumper or placed in a pocket.
Furthermore, areas with high ticket items or cash registered can be monitored more heavily to prevent losses. With machine learning leaning suspicious behaviour overtime, the AI can alert staff of danger in real-time while keeping false positives to a minimum. AI Guardian security camera in Japan is a great example of how AI cameras can read body language to identify potential shoplifter.
Point-of-sale (POS) product activation refers to the requirement of an activation protocol at POS in order to make the product functional. This technology is mostly used on high- value electronic devices.
The product cannot be used as intended without the activation necessary at POS, rendering it useless. Therefore, the value of the product drastically reduces. The only use the shoplifter may have for the product is selling it for parts.
As a result, POS product activation technology can be a big deterrent for shoplifters and employee theft too. According to some experts, it can even reduce sweethearting which is a big cause of shrinkage in retail.
Entry on approval technology using biometrics such as fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition can be a useful loss prevention method.
Without anonymity, individuals will be more inclined to act responsibly in-store, including being deterred from shoplifting. The record of individual shoppers’ personal data will grow overtime, making it easier for retail stores to track their behaviour in-store.
Furthermore, with biometric data, offenders can be easily caught with evidence; and previous shoplifters can be denied entry.
Shoppers’ unwillingness to give personal data can be a limitation to this technology. However, millennials are willing to exchange personal data for better shopping experiences.
Smart shelves are able to detect when a product is removed from shelves and displays based on a defined criterion. This technology can be used for high ticket products or products which should only be handled by staff.
Staff can be alerted when items are removed from shelves. They can act by simply monitoring the shopper or helping the shopper with their purchase. Or, the retailer can choose to only act when multiple products are removed in a short space of time, which can indicate shoplifting.
In conclusion, retailers have already adopted these technologies and predict them to show high levels of growth in the near future since they can be more efficient in preventing loss than staff, reducing the need for too many security and loss prevention staff.