CCTV surveillance technology today offers new tools to help retailers. CCTV in the retail sector has long been associated with loss prevention – providing that “eye in the sky” for store security staff and management. But just as retailers are re-inventing themselves, so is video technology.
The retail market is facing unprecedented challenges as brick-and-mortar locations struggle to redefine their role in the age of online commerce. Retailers also deal with continuing, age-old requirements to minimise costs in a competitive landscape and to provide services and a customer experience that encourages repeat business.
The biggest change in CCTV is a transition from analog to systems based on Internet Protocol (IP). Networks of cameras connect like computers and can become part of a retailer’s information technology (IT) infrastructure. From the retailers’ perspective, the other exciting development in video is more capabilities at lower costs. Cloud-based systems are also having an impact. CCTV systems that provide more value to retailers are creating new opportunities, doing so much more for less money, and expanding the role of CCTV in the retail environment. In effect, video is offering new tools for retailers right when they need them the most.
Retail CCTV Transition from Analog to IP
The transition from analog CCTV to IP CCTV video technology is well under way in the retail sector, although there is a huge base of analog systems still in use.
For new installations, the IP transition is happening faster. Today, more new CCTV system installations in the retail sector are IP-based. Advanced Overwatch estimates 70 to 80 percent, or more, of new video systems are IP, especially for larger customers. Every year sees an increase – four years ago it was probably 30 to 40 percent of new customers.
Larger retail operations with existing video systems tend to be slower to transition to newer technologies. For example, a large retailer with both corporate stores and franchisees may elect to adopt newer technology at corporate-owned stores, but can only recommend that franchisees follow suit. In fact, franchisees may elect to stick with older, more familiar equipment, whether because of costs or simple inertia.
Smaller retail customers may wish to make the transition to IP, but costs are a problem. Hybrid equipment can help. For example, hybrid NVR/DVRs allow flexibility for retailers to retain analog cameras in some locations and to install IP cameras in others. The approach enables franchisees and smaller business owners to “layer in” additional IP cameras while keeping their existing analog infrastructure. A network video recorder (NVR) connects to IP cameras, while a digital video recorder (DVR) connects to analog cameras; a hybrid NVR/DVR can
connect to both.
Another alternative for existing analog systems is our TurboHD™ range of NVRs (HD over analog) and HD-TVI (High Definition Transport Video Interface) cameras, allowing retailers to reuse analog cabling (coaxial and electrical) and replace older analog cameras with 1080p versions, sending uncompressed, high-resolution video over coaxial cable.
Existing CCTV Integration
Integrating with existing CCTV equipment is a large factor in retail, perhaps more than any other vertical as many cameras and security measures are deployed. Store detectives who use video to track shoplifters are used to working with analog equipment, and are comfortable with their responsive pan-tiltzoom (PTZ) controls, which make it easy to follow a shoplifter through the store.
In order to apprehend a suspect, they have to maintain continuous observation of the customer. Newer, software-controlled PTZs have traditionally suffered from latency, so if a suspect changes direction suddenly, the video operator could lose them. New systems have addressed the problem of latency, but the operators may still not be comfortable with software-controlled PTZs or other features.
Newer graphical user interfaces (GUIs) are more intuitive and easier to use, and Advanced Overwatch provide full training for all users on the new systems, helping them get used to the feel and control of a new system, to facilitate a changeover.
New CCTV Cameras Expand Capabilities
CCTV video camera technology is evolving in ways that provide specific benefits for retail end users. The latest cameras that we install are better at dealing with issues of glare and back-lighting in glass areas at the front of a shop, for example. More resolution, provided by high-definition (HD) cameras, means less pixelation.
Advanced Overwatch offer cameras with ultra-high WDR (wide dynamic range) which can deliver clear images with true color reproduction in brightly lit or high-contrast environments, particularly suited to intense backlight situations. These ultra-low-light CCTV cameras work well after hours in a warehouse or retail operation, providing color images down to 0.001 lux and black-and-white images down to 0.0001 lux. The “DarkEye” SLA (Super Large Aperture) lens enables operation of the camera at a consistently large aperture, at any zoom setting, for maximum low-light performance.
Smaller, less conspicuous cameras, such as pinhole cameras or minidomes, may also be favored by retailers concerned with aesthetics or wanting their surveillance system to have a low profile. Our independent selection of hardware for a large product line provides plenty of choices to our retail customers, and following a free no obligation CCTV quotation we work with our retail customers on standardising on one brand of cameras which minimises training cost.
Power over Ethernet (PoE), which provides power to a camera as part of the network connection, eliminates the need for a separate power supply (another potential point of failure). Advanced Overwatch will also help customers save on labor costs with simplified cabling installation (cameras are networked rather than each requiring a “home-run” coax cable back to the front-end).
What Does A Typical Retail CCTV Solution Consist Of?
A typical local or remote CCTV video management scenario in a retail environment would consist of an NVR at each remote location, with the entire video network tied together in a head office or loss prevention control room using a management server to connect to a single shop or hundreds or thousands of shops.
More camera functionality (at lower cost) is driving less expensive CCTV systems, enabling Advanced Overwatch to provide more value for retail customers. For example, fewer cameras are needed to cover the same areas (because new cameras see larger areas with more detail).
Also, integration of cameras with NVR/DVRs and video management systems (VMS) from third-party manufacturers – such as Genetec, Exacq or Milestone – enables use of less-expensive cameras in those installations as a way of stretching the budget. Using our Retail Solutions often enables in the amount of cameras within the same budget for example from 20 cameras to 28 cameras, resulting in increased functionality and faster ROI.
Cloud-Based CCTV Systems in Retail
There are unique opportunities for Advanced Overwatch cloud-based CCTV systems in the retail vertical.
Cloud-based systems work extremely well with multiple, distributed sites – a fundamental aspect of retail. Cloud systems minimise the need to manage equipment and hardware at each site. There may be no staff at a retail location who can maintain, backup, reboot or take care of a CCTV management system. With video in the cloud CCTV solutions from Advanced Overwatch, there doesn’t have to be. Also, fewer trips are needed to individual stores to maintain the surveillance system, as all CCTV footage can be viewed remotely – from headquarters, a head office, a manager’s mobile device – and can be sent remotely to police without anyone having to visit the shop. Cloud systems also improve and simplify the mobile experience. Users can view CCTV footage easily wherever they are in the world.
Cloud-based video systems are more secure, too. The video is stored offsite, so it can’t be stolen by criminals. Our Cloud systems can also integrate with general business systems and analytics.
Cybersecurity is also paramount, and cloud systems are “locked down.” Customers don’t have to worry about the vulnerability of their cameras to cyberattack.
Cloud systems are also always up-to-date. A cloud based CCTV system is only going to improve and get better. Our customers don’t have to call us in to do firmware upgrades, and with our remote support solutions via Etherlink the entire CCTV Network can be maintained remotely.
CCTV Return On Investment (ROI) in Retail
Return on investment (ROI) is a key metric in any business, but is especially so in the retail sector, where profit margins may be narrow and could be threatened by the installation of any equipment that doesn’t “pay for itself.” Expanding uses of CCTV boost cost-justification scenarios for any retail business.
More cameras are being installed in retail environments, and the value of camera systems extends far beyond loss prevention.
Everyone may immediately think a camera is for loss prevention, but some cameras today can also be used to ensure compliance with PCI (Payment Card Industry) regulations, standards for retailers who handle credit cards.
Regulatory factors are requiring camera systems with additional storage – up to 90 days. Cameras can watch a server to ensure PCI compliance. Using video to ensure compliance may have been cost-prohibitive several years ago, but not anymore.
Camera systems also contribute to general liability and safety for retailers. Cameras are being deployed to watch the shop floor, public areas, escalators and car parks (where personal injury liability claims might originate), prompted by the risk management department rather than loss prevention. Our CCTV camera solutions can detect if a person is present when an employee provides a refund, or voids a sale, or performs some other high-risk transaction.
Snippets of CCTV can also be used in training to show good and bad examples of employees in action.
But that’s just the beginning of the value Advanced Overwatch CCTV provides to retail operations beyond loss prevention. Big value comes in the areas of operations and merchandising.
CCTV Value for Operations and Merchandising
Even Advanced Overwatch CCTV systems originally installed for loss prevention may extend their value if video access is provided to other departments, such as operations and sales.
The same camera views used for loss prevention can enable owners or managers to inspect their stores:
- How much stock is in the back room?
- Is there a backlog of merchandise?
- How long is the queue at checkout?
- Did the shop open on time?
- Are the right people in place?
Using information gleaned from CCTV is another useful tool for retailers, especially when combined with other information to yield analytics of – and insights into – shop operations. The most common example is conversion rate: How many people who come into the store actually buy something (and how much)?
CCTV People Counting
A CCTV camera from Advanced Overwatch with people-counting capabilities, mounted at the entrance, provides a total number of customers, which can be compared with sales numbers to measure conversion, for the day or during various periods throughout the day. If one shop is not performing on par with the others, the conversion rate number can provide a red flag. There may be customer service or staffing issues. The queue wait may be too long. Staffing may be inadequate at peak times. More and more retailers are using conversion rate to help them manage their businesses more effectively.
Retail businesses leverage CCTV system capabilities such as heat mapping, people counting, monitoring queue times, etc., to achieve goals beyond loss prevention.
People counting at the edge (inside the camera) provides a useful “pull” solution (rather than a “push”) for a smaller retailer, providing a people count as needed on a daily or weekly basis, even if it isn’t integrated with other software/analytics systems. An Advanced Overwatch Professional CCTV 4 Line series camera, mounted overhead at an entrance, counts people who enter the store; the camera can also be used to count objects that cross a virtual detection line (to analyse traffic flow). Specialised “mini” fisheye cameras, suitable for indoor small surface areas, also include a
people counting analytics.
Cameras also help analyse traffic patterns in the store. When a person comes through the door, do they go left or right or straight ahead? What impact does such information have on how products are merchandised? There is also the concept of dwell times: How long do people stop at an end-cap? Heat mapping capabilities of video cameras provide a color-coded image of traffic patterns and
dwell times – hot spots, slow areas, bottlenecks, etc. – a valuable tool for analytical retailers.
CCTV Heat Mapping
Advanced Overwatch 360-degree fisheye cameras provide heat mapping, and the ability to specify zones to view, for example, detecting whether people stand longer in front of a certain display.
Our 360-degree fisheye camera line provides 3-,6- or 12-megapixel resolutions. The fisheye is a convex lens that provides a wide-angle field of view, with the scale being reduced toward the edges, resulting in a “warped” view. Hardware de-warping and a variety of viewing modes – original fisheye, horizontal panoramic view, or quad view with virtual pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) to any region of interest provides a complete retail heat mapping solution.
Our CCTV solutions for retail can help with managing staff: If one location in a chain of shops gets busy or an area in a large department store, managers could send staff from another location to help handle the rush. Monitoring retail traffic – and fine-tuning staffing levels to ensure that adequate (but not surplus) staff is available – can help retail customers control their labor costs more effectively and contribute additional ROI.
CCTV Retail Solutions For Quick Response
CCTV systems from Advanced Overwatch provide a “window” to view a retail business’s operations, and to respond in real time, which is particularly useful in multi-site operations that are managed centrally with our monitoring solutions.
Retail businesses can be managed (with the help of CCTV) in the present, not through a “rear-view mirror”.
CCTV Impacting Retail Beyond Loss Prevention
Retailing and CCTV surveillance are two markets currently facing upheaval and transformation. Fortunately for retailers, video surveillance changes are providing opportunities to deal more effectively with the transformation they face. Less expensive equipment from Advanced Overwatch over competitors and speed of installation make our retails solutions rapidly accessible and cost effective.
Technologies that we offer such as people counting and heat mapping are providing new data and tools for retailers. Clearer images and more features are expanding system capabilities. And human ingenuity is developing new ways technologies can be applied in the retail vertical.
Retailing may always be a challenging market, but Advanced Overwatch CCTV systems are poised to play a larger-than-ever role in addressing those challenges in the future.
Loss prevention is just the beginning.
Retail CCTV installation, monitoring and maintenance
If you need advice on your retail CCTV system or are ready to have one installed by an experienced and knowledgeable retail CCTV installer, please visit our contact page by clicking here or give us a call on: 02870 878077 for a free, no obligation expert survey.