Technology was certainly a key theme at our recent ECR Workgroup on Shrinkage and On-Shelf Availability in Dusseldorf, Germany. We started with a tour of the European EPC Competence Center where we received updates on the current status of RFID, advances in technology and testing, and held a roundtable discussion about real-world application. Then, Adrian Beck presented the findings of a U.S. based benchmark study on Emerging Loss Prevention Technology that he, Colin Peacock, and I recently completed that included participation from the vast majority of high volume U.S. retailers.
Continuing the theme, my “Letter from America” session was an opportunity to update the group on the recent (R)Tech Asset Protection Innovation Awards that were announced at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Asset Protection Conference in early May 2017. This was the second year for these awards that recognize technology innovation in our industry and there was a significant increase in nominations. A panel of industry judges had the difficult task to evaluate the eight finalists and determine the top three innovations.
This year’s awards featured a new twist – one retailer submitted an innovation that they developed internally for consideration. Walmart’s Global Investigations group won third place for their “Project Redemption” solution that provides a gift card risk analytics engine. This engine allows for customer fraud protection and repair before the customer even knows they might have a problem, addresses criminals using fraudulent payment methods, and provides heat map views of activity that can be drilled down from the chain-level view to an individual gift card in a couple of clicks.
Profitect, last year’s first place finisher, came in second this year. Their new innovation submission forecasts shrink, on a store by store basis, using machine learning and AI to identify the key variables and metrics that have the highest impact on shrink in that specific location – even if they change over time. The ability to reliably forecast trends on a daily or weekly basis have obvious impacts in regards to resource allocation, elimination of workload for such activities as cycle counts, and conduct necessary interventions without having to wait for months for a physical count.
This year’s overall winner was Digital Safety, also known as DiSa, and we had the chance to hear their key executives – Adam Hartway, CEO, and Chris Roberts, Retail POS Executive – explain the solution that won first place in the awards. Their solution provides a means to digitally lock electronic items by requiring the input of a specific activation code that can only be generated upon processing at Point of Sale. This feature, combined with deterrent labeling developed in conjunction with the Loss Prevention Research Council, means that malicious actors will quickly learn the futility of stealing items protected with this feature. In addition, every transaction is archived to provide forensic evidence to protect against return fraud or internal theft.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to this approach is the ability to move product that would have previously have been locked up or protected with cables to an open-sell merchandising approach. Less effort on the part of store staff, greater visibility, and more convenience to the customer should presumably result in significant sales increases. With a chain-wide implementation already in place in key product categories with one of the world’s largest retailers, we can expect to hear a lot more about this technology in the coming year and expect that it will be coming to European shores in the upcoming months.
About the author:
Walter Palmer is President of PCG Solutions, Inc., a leading consultancy in the Loss Prevention industry that provides strategic guidance, research, and training programs for some of the leading retail brands in the world. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequent speaker, feature author, and contributor to industry publications and trade associations.