More than just secure
23 March 2020
John Davies explores the commercial benefits of integrated security systems for retail and leisure
When the public think about the security of retail and leisure sites they probably picture security guards at shop fronts or entrance turnstiles that ensure only members or authorised people access a leisure centre.
This is still an important part of what we provide to these key market sectors, however, integrated security systems are now providing far more functionality as the dedicated ‘eyes and ears’ of a facility – some elements of which might even surprise some security professionals as well!
On a basic level, one of the things that separate retail and leisure security from protecting private buildings (and makes them considerably more complicated), is the need to accommodate access for the public. If you are securing an education facility, a utility installation or a laboratory for example, you have a very clear view of the authorised people who will be granted access and it is a binary decision – is the person authorised or not?
Retail and leisure security deals with authorised staff and visitors, but also visiting customers who must be able to enter the facility and make purchase decisions with flexibility of movement. At the same time, these facilities will have closed areas which the public don’t have access to, protecting property and people (such as sports teams or entertainers for example).
Security of these facilities is nothing new and security providers are well prepared for the complexities of mixing public access and secure access areas. However, modern integrated security and surveillance systems are now providing additional benefits when they are used not only to monitor security but also usage, occupancy and behaviour patterns of customers to provide business and marketing insights.
Learning from online retail
Much of this “customer insights” data approach has been pioneered in the retail industry, a sector which is famed for its obsession with understanding customer behaviour and needs – The secret to retail is the detail. Traditionally much of this was gleaned from marketing experience or trial and error, to find the best customer messaging or store layout.
Undoubtedly, the application of closely monitoring the behaviour of retail store customers has inspired (and is often directly related to) the way retailers already monitor their online visitors. Online retail infrastructure lends itself perfectly to tracking, monitoring and even subtly manipulating customers as they visit the website. You can very rapidly offer incentives or make suggestions based on the customer’s behaviour to help close a sale.
Working closely with retail marketing
As a manufacturer, much of our insight into these developments in the retail market has come through the customer dialogue with our systems integration partners. These expert installers are increasingly talking to the marketing teams just as much as the security and IT teams within the end-user organisations, to specify and supply systems that provide full multi-role services.
By combining the data from CCTV/surveillance systems, along with access control and analysing it all using powerful data analytics, it is possible to ascertain a very accurate and insightful view across one or a chain of retail outlets.
Retail analysis in action
We work with a systems integration partner that concentrates on installing IP-enabled security systems, including intruder alarms, CCTV (using Milestone’s video management systems) and our access control system. This approach ensures the systems integrator can offer joined-up solutions and it offers an expert view on all the connected Internet systems and networks.
For one particular project, the retailer wanted to examine and analyse footfall information so it could assess how well the store was laid out. This gives insights into the use of space and the management of people traffic, but also how customers react to promotions and incentives, as it measures these analytics in real-time and can be compared to the sales and marketing strategy.
This makes it the perfect way of assessing if customers are avoiding/neglecting a specific floor/department of the store, whether a display is catching people’s attention or if certain products or promotions are attracting greater or fewer numbers of viewers.
In this case, the retailer is using it in conjunction with Point of Sale and Digital Display information, so its marketing team can push a message out to a digital display. It could be product information or a time-sensitive promotion.
The systems can then be used to analyse how these displays are affecting the customer traffic and people’s behaviour in the store. For example, from the change of display, how quickly do people visit the part of the store where the promotion is? If there isn’t the desired reaction, the marketing team can re-evaluate the situation and evaluate why the messaging isn’t working.
This has also altered the way the systems integrator approaches its sales to customers. Instead of just talking to the security management teams, it also targets the marketing stakeholders to demonstrate the potential benefits. This enables a retailer to spread the cost across different departmental budgets, with full justification that the security system is benefitting several business needs and objectives.
Automated leisure security
The leisure sector is another one which is benefitting from the latest automated security whilst also taking a lateral view of the benefits of intelligent systems. In many ways, it shares a lot of similar considerations and potential issues with the retail sector.
Venues such as sports clubs, gyms, concert halls, cinemas and theme parks all have an (often complex) mixture of public access, authorised visitor access and staff-only areas which need to maintain security. They must also ensure easy authorised access and safe movement in the event of an emergency.
A good example of this are gyms, many of which now offer access to their members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To facilitate this ‘always open’ approach most have inevitably invested in automated security systems to administer access control and to monitor the security and safety of people and property.
A UK gym is starting to use facial recognition technology within the entrance area to ascertain that visitors are authorised staff or a current member. The system also cross-references the business database to ensure the visitor is a paid-up member and can be granted access.
Much like retail, these facilities also have their own commercial considerations and need to assist but also understand their customers’ requirements and motivations too. For instance, the facial recognition system authenticates and enable members of a sports club to automatically book lessons or squash courts for example.
Once the security systems have been integrated with the business database (including membership and relationship management systems) there are many potential applications to automate customer interactions and purchasing. It could equally be applied to vending machines or catering services.
In a similar way to the retail example, the usage of leisure facilities can equally benefit from the monitoring capabilities of security systems to ensure optimum usage of the facilities and resources. Take the gym example again. Looking at footfall and people counting information from CCTV and monitoring systems gives the gym manager an idea of which parts of the gym are busiest at which times. This means the manager can allocate their personal trainers to areas in the gym at the right time or schedule their employees to be in work at peak times of the day/week to meet demand.
It is also helpful in working out how the gym floor is laid out or what equipment is installed. It may be that one area is very busy and people are waiting to use the equipment, whilst in other areas the equipment is underutilised. By understanding this in greater detail, the business can maximise the use of space to improve ROI and to ensure people traffic flow is properly considered when designing/revising the layout.
Much like their counterparts in the retail sector, marketing teams within the leisure industry can also utilise the data to customise their messaging to their customers. For instance, if certain members are visiting at popular peak times when the facilities are busy, the marketing team can send them suggestions about off-peak activities or direct them to alternative nearby sites which may have more capacity. Similarly, if a member is a less frequent visitor, they can be offered alternative membership packages which suit their needs better.
By treating security systems as the automated ‘eyes and ears’ of a business, they have become elevated well beyond their core role. The inclusion of powerful analytics and AI-powered software has ensured they are a game-changer when it comes to understanding and managing the needs of retail and leisure businesses and their customers.
There are some hurdles for security installers and operators to tackle – for instance, GDPR regulations have made video surveillance and protecting privacy complicated bedfellows (although people counters can help with anonymity issues). However, the opportunities for the security industry to attract new customer streams through existing clients means there are significant benefits for both providers and consumers of security technology.
John Davies is managing director of TDSi. For more information please visit www.tdsi.co.uk
Tel: 01202 723 535