Shoplifting is a persistent issue in the US. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) calculates that more than $13bn worth of goods is stolen from retailers each year, equating to $35m per day. In addition, we found that 34% of US shoppers have admitted to shouting at staff for taking too long to serve them, with the increased abuse of retail employees creating concerns for workers’ safety and mental health.
Many stores are also facing staffing challenges, and have been working with a skeleton staff due to the significant retail labor shortage in the US, leaving retail teams stretched and potentially more vulnerable to shoplifting and abuse of staff. In light of this, and with the busy holiday season right around the corner, retailers must act now and invest in the right technology to enable them to better protect their teams and their stock.
Identifying Shoplifters With Facial Recognition Technology
Retailers can ensure that their employees feel protected and reduce the likelihood of missing stock with the help of in-store security technology. Security technology has changed drastically in the past ten years, ranging from smart computer vision technology, improved internal communication, and even facial recognition. In-store systems can flag a potential shoplifter within a store by matching a face’s data points with those in an existing database.
With this data stored in the cloud, a previous offender that was previously charged with theft in a Manhattan store could be flagged as such when they enter one in Brooklyn, with HQ able to issue an alert to all stores in the vicinity via the headsets.
While these systems can flag those who have previously committed shoplifting crimes, they can’t pre-empt a potential theft by someone without a prior shoplifting record, and despite advancements, AI and facial recognition can still be prone to error and bias. It’s also not yet capable of catching shoppers who don’t scan every item at a self-checkout or intentionally enter wrong information to avoid paying or reduce the product price. This kind of technology has also been criticized for not taking into account the privacy concerns, potential rights violations and implications for personal freedoms as many shoppers are likely to take issue with their faces being recorded and stored for an indefinite amount of time.
Bringing Teams Together With Internal Communication Tools
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to a perfect storm, culminating in one of the worst labor crises the sector has seen in recent years.
Stretched teams increase the likelihood of shop assistants feeling vulnerable on the shop floor, and criminals may take this as an opportunity to attempt shoplifting or abuse a colleague. By deploying internal communication tools in stores, such as headsets, employees can feel safer as they are always connected to colleagues and security teams.
Headsets empower workers by enabling an ‘always-on’ method of contacting their colleagues quickly and discreetly if required, giving them a secure channel to flag if they spot suspicious behavior. Headsets can also be used to issue in-store announcements. Across the pond, leading UK homeware retailer Dunelm worked with us to introduce a new security function, where a tanoy announcement could be activated from staff headsets, reminding shoppers of in-store security measures. By also including integration with phone systems, this allows employees to dial 911 in the case of emergency using their voice communication solution.
With the right infrastructure in place, any retailer can gain a range of benefits from the use of internal communications tools. However, a potential challenge might arise from the fact that some workers do not feel comfortable being connected at all times, or perhaps they are not as in tune with technology as their colleagues. Opting for tools that are easy-to-use and intuitive in their nature will reduce training time and allow employees to immediately improve team communication while expanding operational efficiency.
Improving Vision: Smart Computer Vision Technology
In addition to internal communication tools and facial recognition, computer vision technology is capable of monitoring stock levels on the shelves and track any changes. Through machine learning and advanced algorithms, businesses can easily identify any instances of stock depletion outside of established shopping behavior.
Retailers can take a proactive approach to tackle theft by integrating computer vision technology with voice communication tools. A real-time notification can be automatically sent to employees in the case of a missing item. They can then take immediate action to stop the shoplifter, for example by deploying a store-wide announcement via loudspeaker informing customers that there are CCTV cameras in operation or engage security guards at the front of the store to check customer receipts. Smart vision technology can empower in-store theft prevention due to the joining up of existing systems.
Keeping Employees Safe
Deterrence of theft can be achieved by a variety of different approaches for retailers. It’s without a doubt been a difficult year for the retail sector, with challenges created by significant numbers of unfilled retail vacancies in the US job market. Shoplifting and abuse of workers are likely to have a negative impact on morale and mental health and result in increased resignations. Retailers must take action to implement safety measures that protect team members and reduce security threats in-store.
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