High street retailers are under pressure from online competition, but the use of video technology could benefit in-store operations and keep consumers coming into the shops. With innovations being introduced in stores such as Whole Foods installing a robotic barista in the US, video technology within the retail industry could be a positive step.

Retail Insight Network speaks with ONVU Retail president Nigel Ashman about the use of video technology on the high street and whether retailers should adopt new technology to keep consumer engagement.

The customer journey

Using video analytics, retailers can monitor customers when they enter the shop. Smart video makes it easier for retailers to see areas that customers are spending more time in and where they are not. The use of smart video can help retailers decide the layout of the store and how to customise it to suit customers’ needs.

Ashman says: “The experience of shopping is extremely important when winning over consumers. We can categorise consumers into two types; people who ‘go’ shopping or people who ‘do’ shopping. Video analytics can help engage both types of customers. People who go shopping are looking for a good experience and to enjoy the process of browsing. This means the displays they see whilst meandering through the store are key, as they could inspire them to change their behaviour and pick an additional item up.

“On the other hand, people who do shopping normally have a very particular product in mind which they want to purchase. The actual functionality of the store is of great importance. They need a clear pathway and signage to each area. For example, they might be searching for a spatula in a department store but the path to get to the homeware sections is complicated, not clearly signposted and there are no staff on hand to assist. This could lead to the customer becoming frustrated and leaving the store, never finding the product.”

Staff placement

Using smart video to observe where staff members are being used and where they can be more useful within the store is another benefit of video technology. For example, if there is a build-up of customers at the till the video technology will be able to make the decision to send a text alert for a member of staff to help at the checkout, instead of a senior member of staff having to monitor the situation.

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Ashman continues: “A main draw for customers to go to a physical store over an online retailer is there are staff on hand to give advice if and when they are needed. Using sales assistants for their intended use – to sell and assist the customers – can really make the difference in a big sale. This effective use of staff will bolster sales and will entice more customers to enter the physical store rather than just ordering online.

“360-degree video can also be used to measure the amount of staff to customer ratio. Over-staffing is a common issue within stores and can be a huge drain on resources. Video allows senior management to instantly see metrics such as conversion, sales and footfall. The integration of these metrics into an easily usable dashboard not only helps retailers make the correct staffing decisions whilst reducing losses due to overstaffing, it also allows staff to track their own progress on shifts, therefore encouraging staff to push for more sales and to improve performance.”

Visual merchandising

Designing displays in shops takes a lot of time and effort but there is no way of measuring if it brings in more customers. The visual merchandising team would audit all shop displays which can take up more time and money that retailers may not have, using video technology can benefit shops in this way.

Ashman says: “The remote access capabilities of 360-degree video means there is a direct line between the VM design manager and the store, resulting in an enormous amount of savings on travel expenses and time. The VM team can then check whether the display is capturing consumers’ attention and adapt as they see fit. They can also combine this data with the heat mapping and place the really engaging displays on the most-trod path through the store.”

Stepping into the future

Ashman ends by looking into the future of high street retail and how the use of video technology can benefit retailers as a whole.

“By smashing through old conventions, smart video can become an extremely valuable resource for retailers,” he says. “Not only does it give good security, but it gives the retailer the power of data like they’ve never had before. To be able to compete with big tech e-commerce brands, retailers need to adopt new tech to play them at their own game.”