Video Analytics Can Help Balance Pandemic-Era Safety With a Positive CX
Despite the ongoing vaccine rollout, it's important that retailers continue to enforce COVID-19 safety measures to protect customers and employees. Fortunately, it's possible to prioritize safety while also providing shoppers with an enjoyable experience. One effective way to strike this balance is by using video content analytics software.
Video surveillance cameras are commonly used in stores for security purposes. However, video analytic tools significantly expand the value of video surveillance investments by rendering video searchable, actionable, and quantifiable. This enables store managers to respond to situations in real time, as well as discover trends that can influence store layout and policies.
Here are some of the ways that video content analytics can help retailers adjust to the ever-evolving new normal:
Social Distancing and Mask Wearing
Face mask-wearing and social distancing are, of course, primary ways to maintain safety in these tough times, but typically difficult to measure and enforce. Video analytics allow retailers to detect, monitor and analyze the mask-wearing and spatial patterns of shoppers, including whether they tend to maintain a safe distance from one another. Retailers can uncover patterns in foot traffic and pinpoint aisles that are prone to bottlenecks and dense crowding, helping them to drive intelligent decision making around solutions. Real-time alerts can also be set up so that crowding customers can proactively be reminded to stay six-feet apart and wear face masks indoors.
Crowd reduction is closely related to social distancing, with one key difference: its importance is not limited to the pandemic. Even when the health crisis passes, store traffic management will continue to play a crucial role in optimizing the day-to-day customer experience (CX) and safety. Using artificial intelligence-driven video analytics, it's possible to track in-store occupancy in real time. While keeping a headcount on how many customers are on the premises, retailers can determine traffic patterns and deviations as well as pinpoint times of day when occupancy challenges and violations occur. They can then strategize ways to streamline safe store entry and prevent bounced visits to the store. Management can also be alerted in real time if the occupancy limit is reached or crowds are too highly concentrated in one location. This all contributes to a safer environment for employees and customers.
While safety is the key concern, stores must also make sure they're earning enough to keep the lights on and employees paid. Video content analytics can help managers deliver customer experiences that drive loyalty and return visits. Empowered to evaluate the effectiveness of store layouts and displays, store managers can drive positive customer experiences, merchandising and marketing strategies, and, ultimately, the business’s bottom line. The technology enables operators to measure unique visits and the amount of time that shoppers spend at different displays. This empowers them to make informed decisions for improving merchandising, in-store displays and floor plans.
Data can also be correlated with purchase records, so managers can assess the performance of advertisements and displays based on unique and return visits to a store or area within it, store entries vs. bounced visits, and other key metrics. Finally, retailers can differentiate between employees and visitors when evaluating data for more accurate and granular traffic analysis, more strategic decision making, and more effective staff management and deployment.
Video analytics makes it easy to uncover customer demographic trends as well. By gaining insights into the shopping patterns of different demographics, retailers can better focus their marketing and merchandising strategies toward untapped audiences and optimize their offerings for existing audiences.
Video content analytics enables users to search, filter and find key video evidence across multiple cameras in mere minutes rather than the hours it would take to manually sift through each video feed individually. This helps with understanding and managing inventory losses and enables law enforcement to identify people fitting a specific description, thus saving considerable time during investigations.
What Does it Look Like?
If you're having trouble picturing what video content analytics look like in practice, have no fear. The following stills demonstrate some of the capabilities.
In this still, red marks the 'hot spots' that saw the most store traffic throughout the day:
Below is the hotspot heatmap with all the women removed (i.e., these are the 'men's hotspots'!)
The following "dwell" map shows the areas where customers spend the most time standing and/or waiting:
The still below shows the most used "traffic paths" for customers (red is most heavily used):
And finally, the following still shows "background changes" — the red items have been lifted, handled, and put back quite a bit:
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new and disruptive challenges for business owners of all types, but retail has been especially impacted. However, by using new technologies such as advanced video content analysis, store owners can not only protect and maintain a safety-first environment, but also take their business to the next level.
Stephanie Weagle is the chief marketing officer of BriefCam, a provider of video analytics for rapid video review and search, real-time alerting and quantitative video insights.
Stephanie Weagle leads BriefCam’s global marketing initiatives and is responsible for accelerating market adoption of its industry-leading video analytics solutions. Before joining BriefCam, Stephanie was Vice President of Marketing for Corero Network Security, where she led global marketing for the company’s cyber-threat mitigation product portfolio. Previously, Stephanie held senior marketing roles at Lionbridge Technologies and Novell, Inc.