This column will discuss a series of broad topics of things to consider as we face the rapidly changing future of retail loss prevention. With the advancement of technology today, how will business keep up? How can we better leverage the connectivity of everything with an off/on switch? How will we as LP professionals need to adapt?
We hope to address these questions in the scope of the following topics—Internet of Things, mobile POS, RFID, the dual role of LP and customer service, big data, EMV, advanced video, facial recognition, omnichannel, and many others.
A Daunting Future
If you try to keep a handle on all the evolving things of the tech world alone, you will quickly end up shorthanded. There are a lot of questions to be answered. Who is an expert on omnichannel? How will social media, the “Internet of Things,” and data breaches shape our future? Within this context, we need to answer even more direct questions. How can we as intelligent professionals take our practical knowledge and apply them to a brand new, but somewhat familiar field? How can we enhance the way we reduce and prevent loss related to new avenues of business? As our business changes, so do our roles in protecting profits and our brands.
Where do you as an LP professional start? Do you want to start working with something you already have knowledge in? Do you want to dive into a new field? Do you want to roll the dice and invest your time into a practice that has a greater risk and greater reward, or do you want to play it safe with lesser reward?
Typically, we rely on our experience in many fields to guide how we handle issues in the future. Technology is evolving at such a rapid rate, we can no longer rely solely on our own experience on a technology that may be less than a decade old.
First Things First
No matter where you start, establish a program that has defined actionable deliverables. For example, we want to know about civil disturbance, threat of violence, or the large-scale sale of stolen goods. Keep your focus somewhat narrow at first because if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
Do you have a social media monitoring strategy? What are you looking to get out of it? When we started to monitor social media in 2011, we had a plan. However, the program and plan has changed dramatically. First we checked what we are looking for. We thought technology would allow reviewing everything. It’s also very important to not get a call from a CEO asking about a video that’s posted to the Internet before you are even aware.
An early question for everyone must be where to start. A single technology tool is not the end all. You need good technology and people who understand it. If you are relying on someone else’s program for PR, brand protection, social media, or marketing, you will most likely not be able to get your deliverables. I find a lot of folks are intrigued by geotagged data. It’s very sexy to look at a map and see what folks are saying. Unfortunately, less than 30 percent of social media information is geotagged. You have to have a solution that looks for both geotagged and non-geotagged information. What about metadata in photos? Again very cool, but not a lot out there. Most of the online services remove metadata from photos automatically.
To Pay Or Not to Pay?
There are a lot of free tools available, but at some point you will have to make an investment. You may decide to mine more data and invest a person or outsource altogether. One of the things to consider in a paid solution is how to overcome private vs. public data. There are solutions today that can get you anonymized private data to help identify trends. If your company is going to use it for investigation purposes, what are your legal department’s thoughts?
Consider the availability of live feed information—get it while it’s hot. SMS and email notification can bring information to your computer, smartphone, or tablet as soon as it is on the web. If there is an event across the country or around the world, you get a text the second it hits the Internet. Live streaming services like Meerkat, Ustream, and Periscope are able to see it live as it happens. How will this affect what we do? Everyone has HD cameras in their hands. If your company still apprehends shoplifters, when will someone post a video on YouTube? How will you handle that?
There is also a gray area in social media monitoring. When does it become true intelligence gathering using open-source data? I would venture to say that in the next few years it will be more about open source intel than social media monitoring. Just look at the information you see today. A lot of it ties back to news, selling sites, or some other form of Internet-driven communications or information.
What about big data? If you collect social media data, use it. Try adding it to a risk model or using it in a shrink analysis. Imagine you have all of the times your company is mentioned in Twitter and Facebook in relation to robbery, theft, and violence. Next time you have an unexplained shortage, see what eBay, Facebook market place, or Instagram can tell you.
The possibilities are endless. Our future is bright—just don’t get blinded by the light. As with all technology, do your research. That is why the LPRC put in place a Future of LP working group, to address and hopefully answer many of these important questions.