Jul 11 2019

Video Analytics Provide Clues About What Retail Customers Really Want

Managers move beyond surveillance to watch shoppers for hints on how to personalize service.

Retailers have traditionally used video to watch for shoplifters, but they’re turning the camera’s eye to shoppers who want to obtain products legally as well, finding ways to better personalize services for those customers.

“Video analytics and real-time location systems are adding another dimension to retail’s digitization by helping stores understand where customers are spending time and what products they’re looking for,” writes Aaron Lagowski, a CDW senior field business architect for digital transformation and IoT, in “The Digital Transformation Insight Report” by CDW.

Most video footage captured by retailers is never analyzed, Chris Johnson, regional marketing manager for Bosch Security and Safety Systems, tells Security Sales & Integration. “They record it on the off chance that, if something happens, they can go back to the video and find it,” he says. “They’re spending a lot of money to only use video, say, 10 percent of the time.”

Sephora Gains Insight from Video Surveillance

The question then becomes, how else can this video be used? Says Johnson, “If I’m going to capture it anyway and can turn it into actionable information, then I didn’t waste that investment.

“If the store manager notices that customers typically cut down aisle three, that’s where they’ll put their big promotional displays. Now captured video can be used as a business intelligence tool.”

Cosmetics chain Sephora installed a system in its Malaysian stores to link the number of customers to its point-of-sale figures, according to a case study by retail intelligence firm AllGoVision. Using AXIS cameras, the stores were able to count customers and track how they moved within the space.

Sephora was able, for example, to analyze the number of customers in a particular product section and see how that translated into actual sales of that product. “The people-counting feature achieves more than 95 percent accuracy and provides insightful reports aiding the business intelligence process,” the retailer reports.

Video can also help clear up bottlenecks in checkout lines and in popular areas of the store; it can also measure dwell times in those popular areas to make sure they’re always well stocked, according to the CDW report.

Technologies such as Cisco Pulse Video Analytics, which uses speech recognition technology to make video searchable, or IntuVision Video Analytics, which can record particular preprogrammed behaviors (including when customers leave or enter a designated area and from which direction) can boost the value of video.

“It is not enough to know who is in the store. Retailers must also know how those customers prefer to navigate it,” writes Stephanie Weagle, chief marketing officer of BriefCam, in Retail Customer Experience. “The inability to accommodate the ebb and flow of shoppers will result in a compromised customer experience due to overcrowding and bottlenecks.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read more about the ways that advanced video surveillance can help retailers.

Respond in Real Time to Keep Customers Happy

Stores can use this data to deploy solutions as simple as sending an employee to help customers steer through a crowded section or give a shopper that last nudge needed to make a purchase decision, she writes: “Planning for predictable busy times and responding in real time keeps customers engaged and moving through their path to purchase.” 

Video analytics can also help brick-and-mortar retailers as they battle with online retail giants, writes Sean Taylor, head of retail solutions for Panasonic System Communications Europe, in a blog post.

“Very few are left standing … having been hit by online retailers such as Amazon,” he writes. “The ability to dynamically change pricing, product information and promotions to compete across channels is now imperative. Video analytics provide visibility into how these changes impact in-store events and behaviors.”

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