When Covid-19 arrived, retailers were forced to ensure their business models were built around omnichannel solutions to keep customers engaged.
Now that movement restrictions are being eased in many markets and consumers can shop in physical stores again, Axis Communications is helping retailers attract shoppers back into physical stores. The company’s blend of network devices and analytics solutions are helping to enhance the customer experience – including by addressing customer concerns regarding health and safety – by optimising store operations, and by addressing loss prevention.
While Axis Communications was originally founded to produce video cameras for network surveillance purposes, the business has since evolved into providing comprehensive networked audio and video solutions for many business sectors, especially in the retail industry.
“We take a holistic approach to the issues that a retailer may be having and look at what technologies we have coupled with those offered by partners as well as other off the shelf technologies to address the new issues arising from the Covid environment such as curbside delivery, occupancy and social distancing,” explains Hedgie Bartol, retail business development manager at Axis Communications.
Using video analytics, retailers can gather information on where customers are spending their time in-store, what products they are engaging with, and get detailed data on trading aspects such as queueing times.
“This information and business intelligence allow the retailer to make data-driven decisions on staffing, store design and planograms as well as directing staff to provide customer service.”
Bartol says retailers can also gain information on what areas of the store have the greatest traffic and therefore the greatest value for their vendors.
Smart retailers want to encourage customers to spend as much as possible during every visit, which means achieving higher conversion rates and creating opportunities for more on-site cross-selling.
They also want to optimise manpower levels in every store to keep a lid on expenses. By automating some in-store practices using network audio and video technology, Axis Communications’ solutions can help identify ways to optimise manpower allocation and store trading hours.
Installing monitored automated checkout facilities – or even unmanned stores – can have a spinoff benefit of reassuring customers concerned about health and safety.
Since the advent of Covid, Axis Communications has been helping retailers manage store occupancy to comply with regulations aimed to ensure social distancing. That has delivered some retail customers a bonus.
“Besides ensuring compliance, we have been able to give retailers actionable data about when their stores are the busiest for staffing purposes as well as the best times to clean and sanitise their stores.”
In practical terms, if a government policy limits the number of shoppers to 20, for example, the software can create a custom alert for management when that limit is neared – or tell people at the entrance how many people are allowed to enter.
Solutions from Axis Communications can also automate store announcements when a customer is detected not wearing a mask to save store staff having to approach the person, potentially avoiding embarrassment.
At curbsides, stores can use intercoms, speakers and even vehicle-detection analytics to provide services to customers efficiently and effectively.
“Audio and video can provide the opportunity to not only monitor what is happening in the supply chain, but by using targeted messaging based on the activity, a retailer can impact the customer experience at the curbside as well as in-store,” explains Bartol.
Loss prevention is another of the three core areas.
“By implementing technologies that send store associates to a place where customers may be in need of assistance – or about to potentially commit a crime – not only has shrinkage fallen, but customer service, and subsequently sales, have increased as well.”
Bartol predicts long-term impact on shopping behaviour in the wake of Covid, “especially in the concept of curbside pick up as well as ‘buy online, pick-up in store’ (BOPIS).”
Meanwhile, the biggest barrier to retailers adopting new in-store technologies – especially the use of video for monitoring customers – is the rate at which technology moves today and the time it takes for companies to make implementation decisions.
“In the past, there was a greater risk in picking the wrong technology than there was in moving forward with something as a solution. Today, the risk of waiting to move is greater than perhaps picking a technology that may not be quite right,” he explains.
But Bartol says retailers looking to grow sales and protect or grow market share from their rivals cannot afford to defer decisions on investing in audiovisual solutions.
“Consumers expect to be met where they are with technology and they are looking to retailers to provide them an experience more so than just an opportunity to shop.”