Auror hosted its annual Connect Conference virtually on Wednesday, February 15, bringing together global partners for an afternoon (or morning, depending on what piece of earth you’re living on) of community.
The conference started with an introduction from Auror CEO Phil Thomson, who welcomed new retail partners and stressed what a busy year the company has had. One highlight he pointed to was a strong increase in law enforcement’s use of the Auror platform, with 20,000 police officers from more than 2,000 agencies now using it.
Thomson also shared that he’s seen a downward trend in violent retail events recently. “Retailers are moving away from apprehensions and towards a prevention model,” he said. “And there’s a new focus on employee safety. Weapons and violence are three times more likely to be used when someone attempts apprehension.”
Next, Auror Vice President of Retail Partnerships Bobby Haskins presented a session on the power of retail crime intelligence with the senior director of loss prevention operations at a large Texas grocery chain.
This chain is the largest private employer in Texas, with really busy stores, and the challenges that come with that success.
“We run pretty lean in terms of loss prevention resources,” he said. “When you look at our LP expenses, we’re at the bottom 10 percent of a lot of other retailers, so you gotta do more with less. It forces you to become a master of all trades.”
Before partnering with Auror, this LP team was simply doing the best they could with the resources they had. Integration of the Auror platform, however, changed everything.
“We looked at other solutions out there, we looked at building our own, and we knew we had a need for an incident reporting platform,” the senior director explained. “When we were introduced to Auror it came back that this was what we were looking for and then some. This could do all the things we talked about and a lot more. Like the linking of cases, for example—we didn’t even have that on our radar.
“It has been nothing but successful for us, giving us information we can react to.”
One of the best parts of the Auror platform, he continued, was how easy it was to adopt. His team no longer has to find a PC to enter shift incidents—they can simply pull out their phone, enter the incident on the spot, and create intelligence they can distribute right there and then.
Now, 90 percent of the retailer’s stores are logging in and reporting events. This wealth of intelligence has already exposed some interesting trends.
“The biggest ‘aha moment’ we’ve had is the number and frequency of opportunists—not ORC, just normal people walking out with carts full of the things they need to support their households every week,” the senior director said. “They have no fear of detection, or they know you can’t touch them or stop them. And I think the shame is gone. There’s a whole sociological study that should be done on what’s changed—we’re catching nurses, teachers, and soccer moms, and it’s just different. I’ve talked to other retailers and they’re seeing the same thing. The good news is that this group of offenders tends to be impacted by the tactics ORC offenders wouldn’t be.”
Haskins then introduced Walmart US Senior Director of Asset Protection Joshua Ridgeway to share “Perspectives from the World’s Largest Retailer.”
Ridgeway emphasized how valuable the Auror team has been in deploying the platform, as they displayed an impeccable attention to detail.
“One of the things I appreciate most is the pride Auror takes in its product,” Ridgeway said. “It’s been an amazing experience for us because what used to take us 75 minutes is now down to 10 or 12 minutes. And we’re getting faster and faster every time we look at the metrics, and that just means more time for us to do other things.
“Auror is changing the way we look at the impact of theft at Walmart,” Ridgeway continued. “And it’s changing the way we act in stores in terms of how we’re approaching theft. But it’s really supercharged us because we’re getting surgical about what we’re going after. No customer benefits from a raw brush approach to loss prevention.”
Ridgeway also discussed how ORC is getting worse, and how we as an industry need to come together to fight it.
Under the Hood
Auror Vice President of Product Tanya Johnson then gave a presentation on what’s “under the hood” at Auror.
“The Auror community has been constantly growing across the globe, and with ORC growing, this is the best tool to fight back,” Johnson said.
The Auror platform is currently protecting 30,000 stores, she added, and has identified 64,000 people of interest who have stolen more than $1,000 in product in the last six months.
“A small number of people are driving the majority of the retail crime problem, and this is why we’ve developed a platform that can connect the dots and take down these networks,” Johnson said. “It takes a network to beat a network.”
To further improve the platform, the Auror team is currently working on improving its artificial intelligence and machine learning functions to make better use of data collected.
Supreme Hero Awards
For the big finale of the Connect Conference, Auror Customer Success Manager Ali Gaumnitz and Director of Customers Kylene Jones presented the Supreme Hero Awards.
H-E-B, Price Chopper, and Victoria’s Secret, were all nominated for the Retailer Newcomer of the Year Award, which is presented to a retail partner of less than one year that has showed an extraordinary commitment to reducing harm through the use of Auror. H-E-B was announced as the winner. H-E-B has achieved exceptional results within the last 10 months of rolling out the Auror platform, and they’re always looking at new ways of doing things.
H-E-B’s Alicia Perdue, Albertson’s Nathan Bandaries, and Walmart US’ Wade Schillo were all nominated for the Auror Champion Award, and Schillo was announced as the winner.
“Since day one of piloting Auror at Walmart, Schillo has used his passion to drive amazing results and he hasn’t hesitated to share his success with others in the retail community,” the presenters said.
The Impact in Loss Prevention Award, meant for LP professionals building their career and making a notable impact in their role, boasted finalists Sean Bonar with Lululemon, Persephane Lavecchia with Walmart US, and Darren Scott with Walmart Canada. Bonar was announced as the winner because of his impact as the driving force for collaboration at Lululemon.
Walmart US’ Josh Ridgeway, Rexall’s Daryl Blackmore, Albertson’s Gianna Davis, and H-E-B’s Clint Hedgpeth were all nominated for the Loss Prevention Hero of the Year Award for consistently exemplifying a commitment to going above and beyond to reduce crime and loss in stores and communities.
For this award, two winners were announced: Daryl Blackmore and Gianna Davis.
Walmart US, ULTA Beauty, and Rexall were nominated for the Supreme Retailer of the Year Award, and Walmart US was announced as the winner.
“You’ve gone above and beyond this year to reduce loss and harm in stores and communities,” the presenters said. “Walmart is leading the industry conversation that AP needs to be used as a customer experience benefit of any retail organization. Last year Walmart identified the 10 percent of people responsible for 94 percent of loss.”
The Auror team also mentioned their Australia and New Zealand Award winners, and presented a special award for innovation and impact dedicated to the late Lain Robertson for his contributions to Auror’s ALPR.