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Grant Cowan

Addressing today’s retail challenges with AI

By Grant Cowan | Jul 29, 2021

The retail industry has heavily evolved over the past few years from primarily brick and mortar storefronts, to an e-commerce space, putting increasing pressure on these physical stores to be more cost-effective. The COVID-19 pandemic only heightened existing challenges to make sales conversions while complying with new safety regulations. 

In today’s economy, retailers of all sizes can’t afford to lose valuable products to internal and external theft, or accidents. They can’t afford to lose sales due to poor planning or staffing issues. 

Common Challenges Retailers Face

Here are a few common challenges retailers face and how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to address them:

Shrinkage and loss

Retailers are losing the backing of tough laws meant to discourage theft, so they now require security solutions that make retail operations less vulnerable. Between employee theft and shoplifting, retailers lose billions of dollars each year. 

The gap that’s developing, as crime increases and penalties decrease, can be bridged with technology. Many retailers have been recording data but haven’t been able to turn that data into actionable information due to cost and lack of resources.

By integrating an AI-video analytics solution with an open platform video management system (VMS), retailers can unlock the power of their video data – essentially turning an existing security camera into a smart device filled with actionable information. 

For example, video analytics can be used to detect shoplifters and employee thefts in real-time and alert security personnel more quickly than before.

Incidents and accidents

Like others, retailers are trying to do more with less. This means longer investigation times and other backlogs of incidents. 

Some retailers are still using manual methods to track and manage investigations, such as stores with multiple locations that need to keep track of multiple DVR’s. In this instance there is no system bringing everything together into a single platform, which is detrimental in terms of conducting effective, timely investigations. 

By leveraging your VMS and integrating it with video surveillance solutions, retailers can take advantage of AI-enabled video analytics to conduct these investigations.

For example, AI-enable video analytics would allow loss prevention to quickly search and identify specific video footage of a white truck without having to watch hours of video. If you’re searching for an individual wearing a blue shirt and white baseball cap, retailers conducting investigations can easily search video footage using these parameters.

Tech debt

The costs of reworking past installations using short-term technologies or quick fixes can be detrimental to a retailer deploying an effective system. 

Tech debt presents a number of challenges, as it means additional work and oftentimes having to rip and replace a quick fix. Ultimately, retailers will end up installing a lot of hardware, activating services and software’s to solve a short-term problem - with no long-term planning.

AI has advanced to where you can combine multiple solutions for a more holistic view of your retail landscape. Security and business operations are no longer siloed, even though they are historically different departments. 

AI analytics can deliver business intelligence across all departments, helping retailers to determine occupancy utilization, dwell times and queue lengths. 

From there, retailers can take all this real-time information and visualize it with charts, heatmaps and plots to make business-driven, educated decisions.

Foundational technologies from Salient Systems and Dragonfruit AI act as building blocks for retailers when it comes to addressing these real-world retail challenges. It’s not a point solution, or a rip and replace, it’s foundational - allowing a business to continue building on a base for today and future business operations.

Salient Systems, in partnership with Dragonfruit AI recently discussed today’s retail challenges on a webinar with Loss Prevention Magazine and how AI can be used to address them. 

Grant Cowan, Director of Key Accounts at Salient

Grant Cowan is Salient’s director of key accounts. He has spent more than 15 years in the video management software industry as a trusted advisor to his customers by helping find creative solutions for the problems that exist for retailers and other end users. Today, Cowan is the director of national accounts for Salient Systems where he focuses on regional and national project design and deployment.