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Unlocking Data: Share Costs and Improve Business Decisions

by Brian Sims

Organisations in every industry and at every level are looking to cut back on unnecessary and ineffective expenditures in order to maximise Return on Investment, writes Simon Cook. Security Departments are no exception. Not only do they want to ensure that they’re investing wisely in infrastructure, software and personnel, but they also want to contribute to the overall success of the organisation. The $64,000 question is: ‘How?’

For some, the answer has been to think differently about the systems they use and the possible interconnections and collaborations that can occur between departments.

Recently, security directors and personnel have started looking at the untapped data that they’re collecting on a daily basis. In particular, they’re thinking about ways in which to use that data to make better business decisions and to work with other departments, among them Marketing and Operations, in order to develop strategies with results that can be both quantified and analysed.

It’s becoming clear that, when properly understood, the data collected by physical security systems can have a significant impact on other areas of the business. One of the advantages of collaborating with different groups by effectively using meaningful data is that, when it’s time to upgrade or enhance your system, these other departments are often more inclined to help share the cost. A good example of this type of collaboration is what the retail sector is doing with analytics.

Understanding data can increase profitability

In retail, profitability is directly related to providing a positive shopping experience for the end customer. The retailer needs to know what its customers like and don’t like, and has to ensure that buyers are receiving prompt attention and service that comes across as being both intuitive and responsive.

It would be an understatement to say that online retailers have, in recent years, achieved a degree of success by using the data collected by their systems to tailor web-based shopping experiences to meet their customer’s specific wants and needs. Following this success, bricks and mortar stores are now looking to mine their data as well.

Specifically, retailers of pretty much every size want to understand when customers come into stores, where they go once inside and under what circumstances they leave or make a purchase.

Fortunately, most retailers already have part of the solution in-house. They’re continually gathering information about customer behaviour through their video surveillance cameras and simply need the analytic tools that can collect and filter that data to help them make effective use of it.

Knowing the customer: the key to effective retailing

While the main reasons retailers initially install physical security systems include helping with loss prevention, employee compliance and potential litigation claims, with the right analytic tools the data that these systems collect can also help optimise queuing efficiency, display placement, staffing levels and pricing strategies.

Through the use of analytic tools like people counting, heat maps and directional analysis, retailers are starting to produce actionable intelligence about store operations, trends and buying patterns.

Multi-directional visitor counting uses video cameras already installed in store to gain a clear picture of when customers exit and enter. This information can be used by management to optimise sales staff in order to meet peaks in customer influx and also by marketing to determine which promotions and displays actually drive traffic.

Heat maps can also be created using existing camera recordings, capturing customers’ navigational and interactional behaviour. As well as this, directional analysis tools can help retailers understand how their customers move through a store. Having a clear picture of the flow of motion and density of a crowd can help operations, marketing and sales teams better gauge customer interactions with in-store displays and promotions. In turn, this helps with more intelligent store layout and product placement decisions.

Benefits and cost-sharing

What does all of this mean? For retailers, it means increasing profitability by gaining a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, needs and preferences to build a more personal relationship and, crucially, a more positive shopping experience.

It also means that retail businesses’ Security Departments have an increasingly important role to play within business development. Furthermore, that last statement isn’t limited to the retail sector.

Regardless of which industry you’re in, retooling and extending your physical security systems to allow for new applications beyond standard security can go a long way towards demonstrating your systems’ value across multiple departments. One of the benefits of this is that it can increase your buying power when it comes to refreshing or replacing a system, as you can more easily encourage other departments and the Board of Directors to share the cost of deploying the technology.

Simon Cook is Sales Engineering Manager (EMEA and APAC) at Genetec

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