By Trevor Westhead

As we head into the summer holidays, it’s a good time to research, vet, test and implement improvements to your retail environment. Many options are available for each type of improvement and its unique architecture and implementation.

Although that may seem daunting, what it really means is that with open, interoperable systems, you have the ability to create the architecture for the improvements that will work in your environment most effectively. Several types of security equipment can be used to determine what areas of your store need improvement. The following top analytics can help drive your sales into the New Year.

You can count on it
Perhaps the most commonly requested and generally straightforward technology is people counting, which can help identify what is happening in-store. An effective people counting solution should allow a retailer to identify the number of people entering a store and compare that to the store’s point-of-sale (POS) data for conversion rates.

By using Internet protocol security cameras rather than some traditional technologies, retailers not only have the opportunity to multipurpose that camera for security purposes, but also have much greater flexibility in implementation.

Intelligent surveillance can determine the difference between adults and children; be certain that the individual actually entered the store instead of merely crossing the threshold; and even have video verification of the activity. Perhaps most importantly, because the cameras are accomplishing this, retailers are not implementing disparate systems but rather multipurposing their investment.

Hot or not?
Imagine the benefit of having someone sitting in a store’s ceiling, watching and recording everything happening in a store. What would a retailer do with the knowledge of where people are going in the store? What areas are the "hottest" areas and where are the least-active areas? Being able to verify a store design in a quantifiable manner would allow the most effective layout of planograms to be determined to drive sales.

Additionally, knowing where the least amount of activity is could point out areas where people potentially might as well conceal items. Once again, this gives multipurpose use of cameras and utilises them beyond security.

Keep the line moving
The effective use of staff to serve customers and manage checkout lines and cash registers is critical to customer service and to driving sales. The knowledge of when to open a new cash register and serve the customer keeps a store functioning efficiently and delivering service to drive more sales.

Customers hate waiting in line and the stores that keep them moving through will keep them coming back. Having a system that alerts store managers to lines forming and assists with labour management will streamline operations and enhance the customer experience while driving sales at the same time.

Dwell on the customer
Knowing what displays and end-caps are effective brings huge value to marketing initiatives. By using a dwell-time analytic, retailers can know unequivocally how many people are stopping by displays and for how long.

Presenting that data to vendors can add value to locations with hard data. Once again, use the same cameras and the analytics from it can warn of potential theft to pinpoint a customer who is standing for long periods of time in the same area seeking assistance.

No sweetheart deals
Although "sweethearting" may seem like a loss-prevention issue, many times it can be an issue with training. Point-of-sale analytics that identify when items are not scanned properly not only can alert managers to potentially deviant behavior, but they also can identify when processes are not being followed and a breakdown in operations might occur. Identifying these opportunities can enhance operations and efficiencies at the POS.

Many of these solutions can be tied together into a “dashboard" of sorts. The ability to bring together the data so that retailers can drill down effectively and know what is happening in all aspects of their stores is due to the sheer interoperability of this technology.

Using the data can not only reveal how many people came into a store but also where they went, what they bought and how effective the store’s operations were, giving retailers the knowledge they need to provide and maintain superior operations.

When these systems are used singly or in combination, retailers not only will enhance their operations and drive more sales, but also leverage their investment to increase their security protocols. Multi-purposing security cameras add value to the entire system and give retailers the knowledge of what is happening in their stores, without having to pull valuable employees out of their customer service roles.

Trevor Westhead is the retail business development manager of Axis Communications.