We are in the midst of a retail revolution – not a retail apocalypse, but something more interesting – more fundamental. Economic, technological and consumer trends have taken retailers down a path to unprecedented innovation throughout the entire retail experience and value chain. The consumer path to purchase has been re-imagined, and all points of friction are being removed to further enhance the customer experience.
But with all this excitement let’s be sure and take a pause and understand how and what role retail security plays in the new retail reality - it can mean the difference between profit and loss.
In meeting rooms and coffee shops across the nation retail leaders are debating the necessity of change versus the risks to the business from new business models. This isn’t a new debate by any means – for example retailers have been struggling with the optimal mix of permission and forgiveness with their return programs for decades. Make them too generous and you risk a dramatic increase in return fraud. Make your return policies too restrictive and you risk reducing new product trial and impulse shopping.
Where marketers see designing and encouraging stores to as act community hubs, loss prevention professionals see risk in what we all used to call loiterers – and seeing the difference between potential customers and in-store disruptors. Where there is focus on customer experience that drives easy & frictionless payment & self-serve/self checkout, the reality of systems and processes that need to be in place to control the potential rise in shrink as organized crime continues to seek out retailer’s weakest links.
The answer in all of this, as it is in many other innovation opportunities, is a design solution mentality driven by cross-functional teamwork. Winning retailers are building dynamic teams made up of marketers, operations, HR and importantly Loss Prevention and security experts, both from within the organization and trusted, key vendors. By developing and testing together, they are identifying problem areas (e.g. increase in shrink from self-checkout, concerns around employee security from non-shoppers) up front and designing the solution from the front end, not in response to trouble.
There is no turning back; one day not so long ago a customer with mobile phone taking pictures in the store was a risk to be investigated, and is now an opportunity for engagement and viral, “instagramable” marketing moments. Embrace the change, but as once was described in the verification of nuclear disarmament treaties “Trust, but verify.”
Keynote opening panel "Customer Experience & Security: The Challenge of Frictionless Retail" photo courtesy of Retail Council of Canada's Retail Secure conference, September 20, 2018 featuring Melissa Austria (GotStyle), James Connell (Roots) and Scott Adel (Tulip Retail). You can read this and many other great retail insights in each and every edition of Canadian Retailer magazine where I am a contributing writer.