The New Reality for Retailers: Science Fiction No More

How Dell Technologies is empowering retail surveillance with best-in-class AI and computer vision to capture brand new customer opportunities and maximize value.

I want to ask you what may seem like a simple question.

Why is surveillance so important for retail?

Most people would immediately assume preventing theft and saving money. And up until now, these have precisely been the major driving forces behind the development and adoption of security and surveillance technologies. According to the “2018 National Retail Security Survey,” inventory shrinkage accounted for an average loss of 1.33% of retail sales last year. That’s a total loss of $46.8 billion. The financial impact of theft is considerable, but here’s some very good news: that loss is steadily declining.

With the help of leading security and data experts like Dell Technologies, improving strategies and technologies like computer vision has helped retailers lower the average dollar loss to about half of what it was in 2016—a massive decline in lost revenue and a steady improvement that has continued for the past three years.

This brings me back to my original question about the relationship between surveillance and retail. What if I said that these new innovations were changing the way we view and use surveillance technology—pushing it into a new era where the benefits (and profits) go much further than simple security and where ideas from science fiction are becoming a new reality for both consumers and retailers?

When it comes to discovering new ways to leverage AI and IoT with surveillance, there have been many incredible advancements lately. In many cases, faster and smarter algorithms, cameras, and sensors are being revealed almost every week, and at Dell Technologies we’re spearheading several of these exciting new avenues, not just helping our enterprise partners go above and beyond their retail security needs, but also helping them and their customers achieve a new reality of personalized shopping.

Computer Vision Is Reshaping How Retailers Do Business

These developments in computer vision don’t just save money and enable real-time potential-theft evaluation. They also give retailers a brand-new opportunity to better understand their customers. New implementations of hardware and software provide our partners with the tools necessary to learn how to better engage their customers and improve their shopping experiences, resulting in longer times spent shopping and more dollars paid into the store.

For example, understanding how customers flow through the store and at what times of the day can allow the retailer to put more important items directly in their paths where the products can be more visible. Understanding flow can also help reveal why certain items are being skipped over or potentially picked up and put back. Or perhaps there are specific repeat customers or even areas of the store that result in more revenue being generated, where staff can be strategically positioned to assist customers. These few implementations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how computer vision is helping to obtain personalized customer insights and knowledge of real-time and previous behavior that will improve retail profits. Due to the popularity of online shopping, it can be weeks or months before a customer comes back through the doors, so capitalizing on these in-store interactions is more important than ever.

Computer vision is changing everything. The purpose of surveillance up until now was focused on saving money by deterring theft, but these breakthrough developments are revealing how going forward, the new focus will instead be on revenue generation.

Next Steps to Adopting a Computer Vision Solution

Deciding to bring on an advanced surveillance solution, however, can be daunting and often riddled with complexities. That is precisely why Dell Technologies has taken the necessary steps to simplify and streamline the process with an open, holistic, and integrated platform for both surveillance and computer vision based retail insights. Our IoT Solution for Surveillance, including computer vision and AI, is specifically designed for ease of use and especially consistent quality and performance.

Considerations for the Supporting Infrastructure

From an architectural standpoint, we understand how most retailers want to make real-time decisions at the store level. Cloud infrastructure and years of metadata are a strong and highly useful foundation for deeper analysis when needed, but when it comes to practical real-time decision making and per-store or even per-customer customization, that cloud-to-edge connection may not be the best option, and it can even handicap an architecture that requires that constant connection during an event such as a hurricane. Consider, for example, those businesses that are critical in helping their communities when disaster strikes—like some of the large home improvement stores that require access to their digital systems in order to adequately respond to urgent customer needs in any situation. The better option for these types of retailers is a resilient, on-premises infrastructure. For this reason, Dell Technologies has worked with several partners to develop a robust, integrated, and scalable in-store appliance optimized for visualized streaming data with right-sized storage for analytics.

See It Live at NRF 2019

Surveillance continues to save retail more and more money when it comes to preventing theft, but our computer vision, AI capabilities, and best-in-class computer technologies are changing the way retailers are going about saving money and building revenue. With new capabilities and quickly evolving AI, Dell Technologies is able to provide retailers with more personalized insights and tools that don’t just make more profits but bridge the gap between the store and the customer.

While you can already experience several of these living examples of our vision and computing in retail stores throughout the country, come experience a deeper look at Dell Technologies’ computer vision in action live at NRF (VMware booth, #1057) on January 13-15.