With the COVID-19 restrictions starting to relax in the UK and around the world, many businesses are considering their next steps as the global economies look to rebuild.
The Retail sector is one which has witnessed diverse experiences in 2020 - from shutdown in some instances, to peak business for others. However, all retail businesses have needed to rely upon the right security to protect their interests during the most unusual of times.
Security During Lockdown
During the pandemic restrictions, the security requirements for various retailers have been largely determined by government legislation on which stores could stay open and which had to close. Those selling essentials (predominantly supermarkets and local stores) found themselves even busier than usual, with their security having to contend with a big influx of visitors and additional pressures, such as customers panic buying and tensions often running high.
At the same time, most other retailers were forced to close temporarily to avoid the temptation for the public to shop for ‘non-essential’ items (such as clothing) or visiting restaurants, pubs, hairdressers/barbers etc. These businesses have needed security to protect empty premises against theft and vandalism.
Supply chains and logistics businesses have also required even greater security than usual, to ensure essential items such as food and medicines continued to be available.
Return to Trading
Whilst most of these requirements continue, the reopening of other retailers will see security systems coming to the fore for many other uses.
One big difference is the need to enforce and monitor social distancing within retail environments. Those that have continued trading (such as supermarkets) are already well geared up for this, with Perspex screens installed at tills and rerouted store layouts designed to ease the flow of people traffic. However, a great many stores will be needing to ensure this is in place over the coming weeks and months.
Since the pandemic restrictions started, security has seen a significant shift towards its additional role of ‘safety’. Security teams and the technology used have had to evolve, monitoring the behaviour of customers/visitors not just for the security of goods and valuables, but also for signs of dangerous behaviour. This might be monitoring for groups congregating or dangerous or threatening behaviour towards staff (such as close intimidation or even spitting).
Undoubtedly things have evolved since the beginning of the year, so it is important that retailers and security providers fully understand this and ensure systems are in place which protect everyone.
Away from the obvious (albeit evolving) security needs, security systems can also help retailers to maximise their operations and help increase and improve their trading. This is something which was already starting to gain in interest even before the COVID-19 outbreak but is likely to become even more important moving forwards.
Security monitoring has long been an important part of running a successful retail outlet. However, this level of surveillance and the intelligent systems used to monitor it are also perfectly placed to assist marketing teams.
For example, a TDSi systems integration partner is working very closely with the marketing teams within a large retail organisation, where they use the security technology (access control and CCTV) to deliver meaningful information and insights into customer behaviour. Using integrated security systems (such as people sensors, access control and CCTV, along with TDSi’s security management systems), the retailer can track the effects of different sales tactics or promotions.
When the Marketing department pushes out a message to a digital display (perhaps product information or a new promotion which is going on) the system makes a detailed analysis of traffic and people’s behaviour in the store. Also taking into account point of sale and digital display data, this delivers footfall information to look at how well the store is laid out, providing an idea of how to maximise space usage.
Improving the Retail Experience
Undoubtedly the retail experience and environment has already changed following the COVID-19 restrictions. People will be wary of stores that do not make them feel safe and retailers will be looking at aggressive sales targets to make up for the lost revenues of the past few months.
Equally, the Security industry will be looking at ways in which our systems and expertise can help this. Certainly, we have already found that even pre-lockdown, installers have been looking to appeal to marketing as well as security budgets of retail customers.
By making sure security technology delivers on all possible benefits, it provides retailers with a better ROI and more convincing case for continued investment. Security and commerce have always shared mutual benefits, but today’s technology is perfectly placed to help retailers meet the challenges and needs of a post-COVID-19 market.