Crime is one of the biggest challenges facing retailers in South Africa today, however using technology to prevent it could not only help retail companies stop it in its tracks, but also open up customer service opportunities.

By Brendon Hall, sales manager at Axis Communications SA

Notably, the economic and social costs of retail crime have a big impact on business by way of staff absence due to fear and loss of profit through theft – ultimately it all adds up.

The best answer to help thwart the scourge is to have eyes in the environment where you can’t always have people.

Enter the surveillance system. With a good quality surveillance system made up of network video and IP cameras retailers can identify would be criminals as well as deter them – just based on the knowledge that the criminals themselves know they are being watched.

The physical security barrier

Surveillance cameras that are networked to a security control room are not a new concept but are often underutilised and sometimes aren’t even on. These cameras give a client visibility and evidence of incidents and they also increase a customer’s security profile, which goes a long way to deterring would be opportunists.

When looking at the best places to implement cameras, it is best to follow the advice of the experts and security professionals who will advise that a company should have its entrances, exits and high-value stock areas covered.

By placing a monitor displaying footage on the shop floor – criminals can see they are being watched. Remember people commit crimes because they think they can get away with it – it is our job as businesses to ensure they don’t.

More than just surveillance

A quality camera can play a role in helping to prevent retail store losses and shrinking inventory, both major concerns for store owners.

On a positive note, with the advancements of technology the costs of surveillance systems are no longer crippling, and the use of automated intelligence has revolutionised their effectiveness. In short, video surveillance is no longer a passive part of the security landscape.

This is where the “sexy” comes in. When using the data collected by cameras, they become more than just a security asset. This data can be used to detect traffic flow through a store, highlight where the “hotspots” are and then adjust the store layout accordingly.

The footage can be used to develop an idea of peak and off-peak times and when coupled with software like queue monitoring software – the customer experience can be turned around positively.

Integrating audio

Network audio is another feature that is growing in popularity within the retail environment. The applications are vast and take static old systems and add a completely new layer to them.

Unlike analogue audio that distributes an analogue audio signal to a chain of passive speakers, network audio ensures that every speaker is a stand-alone advanced audio system that is controlled and monitored over an ethernet network.

Because it is controlled by software it is managed centrally and can conduct priority announcements via the software, this can also be integrated with other IP devices, like cameras, access control and security system.

Now put it in a retail environment, and these speakers can be used to not only make live or pre-recorded announcements in store but can also help decide where announcements will be made and on what speakers they will be delivered.

Additionally, these speakers can be used to manage instore music, at the right volume and at the time and place of choice. Want to point out to a would-be criminal that someone is watching them? Broadcast it to the very aisle they are standing in.

Beyond security

With budgets pinched, retailers are looking for one solution to meet multiple goals. So yes, they need to fight crime, but they also need to delight customers, transform the customer experience and implement better buying strategies based on fact. This “fact” can be drawn from the intelligence that is built into our video and audio software, all of which are in the very core of our surveillance systems.

The days where cameras were just used to spot criminals are long gone – today we are in an era where one deployment meets with multiple applications and the customer is the winner.