Creative Uses of Technology to Prevent Retail Theft

Retail theft costs companies money and can drive prices through the roof, which affects consumers. Luckily, retailers are finding new and creative ways to use technology to prevent retail crimes.

Effects of Retail Crime

Organized retail crime costs businesses billions of dollars in losses, causing alarm for consumers and companies alike. The United States retail industry lost over $112 billion due to retail theft in 2022 alone. Employee theft, shoplifting and brazen robbery can lead to:

  • Increased product prices.
  • Store closures.
  • Tax losses.
  • Higher insurance claim rates.
  • Public safety risks.
  • Exhausted workforces.

How Technology Helps Prevent Retail Crimes

Retailers are fighting retail theft using new technology or layering existing technology with artificial intelligence (AI). Here are several methods retail stores use to catch and discourage theft.

1. High-Tech Video Surveillance

Stolen merchandise cost businesses over $90 billion in 2021, making it a primary concern among retailers. One way to deter crime is with AI-powered cameras. 

While video surveillance is far from a new technology, retailers are using AI to supercharge their cameras. AI-powered cameras can recognize items and detect suspicious human behavior with the help of advanced sensors. AI’s powerful detection capabilities can spot skipped items during self-checkout and alert central control about possible theft cases.

Analytic tools can also help retailers identify erring shoppers in real time using situational analysis to pick up on tell-tale signs of suspicious behavior. With AI-powered cameras, businesses can take a proactive approach to retail security instead of a reactive one, effectively reducing losses due to retail theft.

2. Advanced Facial Recognition

Traditionally, retailers relied on active-duty personnel to watch over vast store areas and spot illegal activity. Although manual surveillance is effective in catching criminals and preventing theft, it has limitations. For example, long work hours can cause exhaustion, preventing security personnel from effectively identifying and catching criminals. New technologies like facial recognition can help augment security measures, making spotting suspicious characters in stores easier.

Automated facial recognition can access criminal databases and identify individuals with a history of theft. Retail management can then deny store access to individuals identified as shoplifters, robbers or unruly customers. This method is an excellent loss-prevention strategy that improves customer satisfaction and employee safety. With a recorded 9% increase in violent shoplifting incidents between 2019 and 2021, AI-powered facial recognition is a comforting addition during troubling times.

3. License Plate and Vehicle Readers

Retail security measures can go beyond theft prevention by supplementing investigation procedures. Internet of Things (IoT) technology like license plate readers can detect arrivals and departures and help authorities locate suspects for investigation and possible arrests. Leveraging interconnected devices like cameras and sensors, sophisticated license and vehicle readers can easily recognize vehicles used in past crimes.

License plate recognition (LPR) technology can help retailers alert local authorities promptly after a crime. The technology can record critical details like time, date, location and identifiable vehicle markers to help locate the owners of suspicious vehicles. Local authorities can then use the information to track the cars across different highway networks to pinpoint their locations.

4. Smart Access Systems

Retail crime can happen from within businesses themselves. While shoplifters and robbers take center stage in news reports, bad employees do as much damage from behind closed doors. Restricted areas, such as inventory rooms, are also prone to theft. Smart door locks can prevent unauthorized access and keep precious inventory from going missing. The feature also safeguards against workplace accidents, preventing employees from getting trapped in potentially dangerous areas like vaults, lockers and freezer storage.

In addition, smart access systems can also detect people’s access in stores and record the time they spend in critical areas. Central command centers can manage visitor access and deny access with a simple command. In conjunction with other technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and access timers, IoT-powered access systems can help deter malicious activity by keeping track of missing products and people overstaying in inventory rooms or warehouses. 

5. Smart Shelves and RFID Tags

While many smart technologies used in retail security systems are meant to be noticeable to deter criminal activity, others are more discreet to catch unsuspecting criminals. Robotics help augment store shelves by fetching products from secure cases and delivering them to consumers after confirming the purchase. Some retailers also add object identification technology that detects and tracks items customers pick up.

RFID tags have also improved in effectiveness and size. While many stores still use easily recognizable plastic tags attached to items, many retailers switch to smaller, more inconspicuous tags. Some retail stores attach slim and discreet tags to care labels in clothes where shoplifters are less likely to notice them. Store sensors can then alarm retail management whenever people skip items during self-checkout.

Using Technology to Fight Theft in the Retail Industry

A proactive approach to retail security is helping businesses bounce back from theft. Companies should invest in new technology to help secure their interests and protect honest, paying customers from skyrocketing prices and public safety risks.

As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.

Follow Brilliance Security Magazine on Twitter and LinkedIn to ensure you receive alerts for the most up-to-date security and cybersecurity news and information.