Retail Technology Trends Shaping the Future of Loss Prevention

Every day we are reminded just how quickly retail technology trends are changing the world around us. Charging at us at a furious pace, technology is no longer something that we can hope will slow down long enough for us to avoid being swept up. We can’t sidestep the inevitable. It comes at us in our everyday lives, with devices we can wear on our wrists that can take phone calls, tell us our heart rate and the number of calories we are burning, or allow us to access a world of information with the touch of a finger. It is making us more global and comprehensive with access to unprecedented resources, knowledge, and learning. It influences nearly every aspect of our professional lives by making things faster, more accessible, more convenient, and more universal.

But the speed of change also leaves us playing catch-up in other ways as we try to compensate for this rapid pace with responsible management and control. The desire for growth and technology is both intoxicating and addictive, and unfortunately holds some of the same challenges as other vices. Security and related controls can fall behind the overwhelming demand for service and convenience, leaving gaps and loss prevention concerns that malcontents are more than willing to fill. In the world of retail, it then becomes the responsibility of our loss prevention teams to uncover those vulnerabilities, investigate the causes, and resolve the concerns.

Data breaches have become a consistent reminder of these vulnerabilities with attacks that have claimed retailers, entertainment, government agencies, and countless other victims. But this remains just one of the areas where we must continue our professional growth and development. Retail technology trends are woven into the fabric of our profession and widely recognized as a primary driver that will impact the role of the loss prevention department in the years to come. This includes preventing the exposures that new technology may afford as well as how to best leverage technology to combat shrink and loss from all sources.

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But our industry leaders have also concluded that the tools alone aren’t simply what will drive the profession as we move forward. Rather, it is our ability to adapt to retail technology trends that will have the greatest influence on our role. As these complex tools become more commonplace, loss prevention practitioners must adjust, adapt, and develop to understand the utilization of these tools and the overall impact on the retail enterprise.

But where should this training begin? At what level of the loss prevention department should our companies focus on the technological development of the loss prevention team? We’ve had conversations regarding the need to bridge the gap between IT and LP—but where should it start? Is it enough to have corporate teams and task forces, or should it also include other members of the team? What do you think?

In a 2015 LP Magazine Instant Poll, we asked, “At which level of the loss prevention department should we be developing our technological talent?”

a) We should be developing our teams at every level of the department
b) This training should begin as members reach multi-unit leadership positions
c) This training should begin as members reach corporate leadership positions
d) We should simply focus on filling specialized positions and task forces of experts
e) We should hire those with these skills rather than training our current teams

Technology PollRespondents to this poll firmly believe that developing technological talents should begin early in the career of our loss prevention professionals. While some feel that we should focus our efforts on filling specialized positions and task forces comprised on subject matter experts, a robust 71 percent of respondents believe that we should be developing the technological talents of our teams at every level of the department.

As stated by one industry leader, “The capacity for an LP professional to adapt to retail technology trends will define their career…Early adoptors will increase their value while laggards will struggle.” Awareness simply isn’t enough, and legitimate efforts must be supported by training and education. This will allow loss prevention professionals to become even more actively engaged in the success of the department and impacting the profitability of their organizations.

The impact of technology can lead to re-assessments of a variety of business functions. Retail technology solutions will have a direct bearing on how loss prevention performs in the stores, but will take on additional value as our role continues to evolve and expand. This will likely include areas that until now were considered non-traditional roles that may very well end up falling under the loss prevention umbrella.

If you’re an industry leader, get your teams more involved. In addition to formal training and education, look for different ways to increase awareness and engagement. Take the initiative to become a better mentor. Share information and ideas. Offer suggestions and advice. Learning is never a wasted experience and will add value to your team on many different levels.

As an individual, take the steps to become more engaged in learning something new. Learning new technology can help simplify basic life tasks as well as professional responsibilities, so be ready to take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be prepared to make mistakes. Practice patience, and find out what works best for you.

Technology is no longer the wave of the future—it is a banner for the present. We can either get on board or be left behind. More importantly, let’s make sure that we’re leading the way.

This article was first published in July 2015 and updated November 28, 2016.

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