Why is it that some product protection technologies have been around and working for decades, while other retail loss prevention solutions only seem to work for a few months before offenders aren’t impressed?
Many components that factor in to answering this question, but one variable in particular explains a large chunk of the variance in effectiveness window, or “duration of action,” that we observe.
Effort, Risk, and Reward
All product protection technology is designed to accomplish the same outcome: deterring or catching thieves.
But the mechanism of action, or the manner in which they accomplish this outcome, comes in three distinct flavors.
Increase Effort: The technology makes stealing harder. The product is bolted down, behind glass, in a fixture, in an acrylic box, etc.
Increase Risk: The technology increases the odds of being caught. It alarms, makes a click or beep noise when interacted with, alerts an associate, or captures an image.
Decrease Reward: The technology decreases the value of the stolen item. The removal process marks or damages the item. Or the technology prevents the item from being activated until purchased.
While at first glance each of these three avenues seem equally likely to stand the test of time, through our research at the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) an important caveat and subsequent distinction emerge:
Increase Real Effort
Increase Perceived Risk
Decrease Real Reward
While an increase in effort and decrease in reward are real and tangible changes to the value proposition of theft, risk is a bit more nuanced. An alarm is only as good as the intended response. A video camera feed is only as good as the assumed viewer.
While at first these interventions will likely prove effective, their effect will wane with time if they develop the reputation in the offender community of being all bark and no bite. While most of these technologies do increase real risk to an extent, a large part of their deterrent value can be attributed to their increase in perceived risk.
Research Says Change is the Answer
All is not lost for technology that aims at increasing perceived risk. Our research has found that a perceptible change, no matter how small, resets the clock to a large extent on a technologies’ duration of action window. So change it up:
- Turn your enhanced public view monitors (ePVMs) to portrait orientation, or change the blinking sequence of their LED light.
- Set your PVMs to a new zoom level, to display a different message, or a new camera feed.
- Change audible chirp technology to a different preset sound.
- Cycle your store’s technology from one SKU or section to another.
- Add, move, or remove signage periodically.
Unless a defeat technique is developed and syndicated, product protection LP technologies that work by increasing effort of theft or reducing reward of theft will maintain their efficacy well over time without the need to intervene. Retail loss prevention solutions and technologies that work by increasing perceived risk will require strategic repositioning and adjustment in order to maintain their deterrent effect over time.
This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated April 24, 2019.