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3 Technologies Disrupting Retail Crime

Find out how emerging technologies are curbing retail crime and explore best practices for Implementing retail tech.

The retail landscape is a dynamic and ever-evolving space shaped by consumer habits, economic fluctuations and advancing technology. As it continues to evolve, so too do the unique challenges faced by retailers. Retail crime is one such challenge that continues to impact retail operations as avenues for threat and fraud have also evolved in the post-COVID shopping era. Emerging technologies are revamping the strategies to tackle the problem while, at the same time, transforming the customer experience.

From video surveillance bolstered by artificial intelligence (AI) to the capabilities of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, retail crime prevention is entering a new era of innovation. Here, we explore some of the new technologies that are aiding loss prevention and enhancing the shopping experience for your customers.

Video Surveillance Powered by AI

Traditional video surveillance has been a mainstay in retail security for years. However, the addition of AI is turning these cameras into hyper-aware sentinels capable of recognizing anomalies and potential crime in real time. How?

Anomaly detection: AI-enabled systems can flag unusual behavior, such as loitering near valuable items or spending excessive time in a single section, potentially indicating an attempt to shoplift. By identifying these potentially suspicious activities, AI technology can be of value in proactive loss prevention measures.

Transaction monitoring: AI technology also holds great potential to deter loss at point of sale. In cases where scan-as-you-go technology is in place, allowing shoppers to ring up or tally products as they place them in their baskets for faster checkout, video surveillance powered by AI can match scanned items in shoppers’ carts with the items that are actually bagged at checkout or leaving the store. 

AI-enabled cameras can also help identify when staff is extending a “hook up” to a customer (often referred to as “sweethearting”), or even when no customer is present during a transaction at all. In short, AI empowered video surveillance automates the correlation of suspicious activities captured by video surveillance to point-of-sale data, enabling your loss prevention teams to identify and address transactions of interest.

RFID: Minimizing Opportunities for Theft and Maximizing Inventory Accuracy

RFID is one technology helping retailers gain real-time visibility and accuracy into inventory while reducing opportunities for theft, inventory errors and stockouts. RFIDs combine a scanning antenna, transceiver and transponder that work together to register and track tagged products. More benefits of RFID technology include:

Enhanced visibility: RFID technology provides a granular level of visibility into inventory with the capability to track items at every stage of movement from stockroom to checkout. This allows retailers to react faster to stock discrepancies and potential theft.

Automation: RFID technology also makes the process of inventory counts more automated and accurate. The moment an item leaves the shelf, it’s logged within the inventory system, updating stock counts in real time and minimizing potential for human error.

Not only does this enable retailers to ensure that the right products are in the right place at the right time for the best shopping experience, but it also enables loss prevention teams to know when and where product goes missing. Such intel holds significant value when forming your loss prevention strategies.

Self-Checkout and Striking the Human-Machine Balance

Self-checkout and on-demand services have undeniably transformed the retail landscape, offering customers a more streamlined and efficient shopping experience. These technologies, primarily designed to cater to the modern consumer's desire for speed and convenience, also serve as solutions to mitigate labor shortages in the retail sector. Let’s discuss both the benefits and drawbacks of this technology.

Addressing labor shortages and theft opportunity: The adoption of self-checkout systems allows retailers to reallocate their staffing resources more effectively, potentially reducing overhead associated with labor costs.

But recently, many retailers have withdrawn their self-checkout options partially or entirely due to concerns over theft and shrink. The lack of immediate supervision makes it easier for theft to occur, either through unintentional misuse or by deliberate exploitation. This issue is compounded by customer frustration when facing technical difficulties or errors during the self-checkout process.

Balancing the best of both worlds: In response to these challenges, retailers have implemented limitations on the number of items customers are allowed to self-check and increased the presence of personnel. These staff members are tasked with monitoring for suspicious activity and play a crucial role in enhancing customer service, ensuring that help is at hand when needed.

Best Practices for Implementing Retail Tech

Implementing new technologies can be complex, especially when it involves security and customer experience. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Set clear policies and guidelines: Draft comprehensive policies that clearly define how technologies — including AI and self-checkout — should be used and under what circumstances.
  • Comply with privacy laws: Stay abreast of the latest laws regarding customer privacy and work closely with legal teams to ensure full compliance, especially with technologies like facial recognition and voice recording where personal identifiable information (PII) is at stake. 
  • Master data management: Invest in data management to mine and understand the vast amounts of customer and operational data these systems can provide.
  • Use strategic placement: Utilize the expertise of physical security teams to strategically place these technologies for maximum impact.
  • Prioritize customer experience: Although, the end goal of all these technologies is loss prevention, it’s important to ensure that your customers feel valued and their privacy respected. Strive to find the right balance between minimizing your losses while maximizing customer experience.

A Look to the Future of Retail Technology

The future of retail crime prevention lies in a delicate balance of human and technological intervention. Technologies like AI and RFID are formidable tools, but they are most powerful when wielded with human insight and care.

If you are navigating the turbulent waters of modern retail, CDW has the technological expertise to guide you. Our retail team is hired directly out of the retail industry, and they have faced the same challenges retailers deal with on a daily basis. This puts us in a unique position to understand how technology can solve your challenges to make amazing happen. 

Andy  Szanger

Andy Szanger

Director of Strategic Industries
Andy Szanger, CDW's director of strategic industries, leverages over 27 years of IT industry experience, particularly in retail. He assists high-profile retailers in implementing solutions to enhance customer experience, gain business insights and utilize technology as a competitive advantage. Previously, he held operational roles in the retail industry, overseeing loss prevention teams.
Gina Cox

Gina Cox

Sr. Retail Industry Advisor
Gina Cox is a member of the Strategic Industries Team at CDW. With over 25 years of experience, she helps retailers “Make Amazing Happen” by implementing innovative solutions.