With concern over the impact of store theft on profitability at a fever pitch—a consequence of losses moving from the margins to the material—a clear need has emerged for retailers to take the pieces of protection they’ve relied upon and coalesce elements into a smarter, more coherent protection posture. Intelligence-led loss prevention, which has long been recognized as an asset protection ideal, is quickly becoming a mandatory minimum.
Driving this new asset protection mandate is the waning of property crime as a priority and diminished consequences for those who commit it. It is fundamentally changing the playing field on which retail security has long played, according to Sensormatic Solutions’ Brent Brown. “The opportunity curve for bad actors has changed, and they’re responding by becoming more brazen and bolder,” he explained.
In additional to crippling losses, recent attacks on retailers have exposed the strict limitations of traditional asset protection.
“Historically, the AP business has been about deterrence and displaying an impression of control,” Brown said. “This was the mission because almost every solution was built around trying to keep inventory in the store.”
Brown says this model has served retailers well in the past, but today’s thieves have upended it with frontal assaults that are meeting little resistance. “They are challenging that impression of control and realizing there is not control—and when you think about that, you can see that a fundamental shift in LP must accompany it.”
Intelligence-led LP is the strategic evolution the profession needs, according to Brown. The difference from traditional LP strategy is largely a function of what today’s tools are capable of versus the capabilities of devices that LP has historically relied upon.
“Legacy tech was not very intelligent,” Brown said. “Sure, the technology gave us a lot of basic information, in that an event took place, but not a lot of detail around the event, just an audible notification that it occurred. You knew something was happening at the exit, but we lacked intelligence to connect that back to anything. There was no way to gain understanding about the event and disrupt the patterns that will allow it to happen again.”
Transitioning to a more intelligence-based response to theft activity requires tying individual events to data so you can then do something about it, Brown explained. “In an intelligence-led LP world, an event corresponds to knowledge about the event: exactly what product exited the store, when did it happen, and—tied to video—what the person who took it looked like.’”
New Risks Meet New Strategy
Sensormatic’s Brent Brown said that he’s been trying to come up with a metaphor to convey the opportunity currently facing the asset protection profession, and it made him recall going to the drug store as a kid, back when each item had a manually placed price ticket. “The cashier would ring you up, but there was absolutely no record of what the purchase was, just the sale amount.”
That dramatically changed with the advent of bar codes and reader technology, creating a new world of ‘intelligence-led selling’ that revolutionized retail. “The ripples and ramifications of that are immense,” he said. “The entire modern world of retail is built around intelligence-led selling.”
Brown thinks intelligence-led loss prevention can have a similar impact on the future of LP. RFID and similar technologies permit digitalization and standardization to facilitate barcode-like visibility into loss events. And just as sellers leveraged sales intelligence to make better marketing and product acquisition decisions, data around loss events allows loss prevention leaders to make smart choices about countermeasures to prevent theft and conduct investigations to disrupt theft activity.
“We can transition from just getting a signal about an event to a more sophisticated or intelligent capability that captures information about the event, and to have clarity on what was stolen and who was involved,” Brown said. “If you have both those data points, your ability to consolidate events and tie them together creates a whole new path toward defending and prosecuting those events. It helps you build a game plan to disrupt the organized crime rings that are driving the new risk environment that retail currently finds itself in.”
Case in point: data and images linked to theft events provide retailers with ready-made evidence packages to present to law enforcement.
Just as reducing friction for ‘green shoppers’ has become an industry-wide mission, the opposite should be driving retail’s approach to ‘red shoppers,’ according to Brown. “What intelligence-led AP does is allow us to continue to apply friction in the follow-up to an event, to allow you to understand what happened so you can attack back,” he said. “Currently, there is not enough information about the event to apply friction after the event has occurred.”
It’s a modern approach to asset protection that is likely to gain favor with merchants, with clear advantages over prevention strategies that can dampen sales, like anti-theft boxes and display cases. “Intelligence-led LP makes for a really interesting conversation, where AP can come to a merchant and say, ‘I am not going to inject friction into the process. I am going to manage red shopper risk over time with data.’ That is something that can change boardroom conversations.”
Times and the threat environment have changed. Luckily, so has the technology at LP leaders’ disposal, which empowers them to fight theft in a new and necessary way. “You need a rich and enduring record of the event itself, instead of just relying on an impression of control,” Brown said. “Getting a record of the event is number one—it is a fundamental first step.”
Learn more at sensormatic.com.