Recently, the sales team at Argus True ID attended the Retail Risk 2019 event in Melbourne, Australia.
As the retail industry moves into another challenging year, we speak with our ANZ Sales Director, Blair Crawford, on the key themes discussed at the event, as well as the role biometrics is playing in the modern retail market.
Q: Blair, what were some of the key themes you found were raised at this year’s event?
A: For us, two really key themes stood out around security. We’ve been working with our retail clients for a period of time now around helping to manage the stock shrinkage challenge, and we’ve seen how biometrics can dramatically reduce in-store theft by staff.
The themes that we noticed were an extension of the stock shrinkage issue. Firstly, attendees were telling us that approx. 1/3 of the shrinkage they see actually happens in the supply chain, before goods ever reach a store location. For us that was an interesting challenge; given we’re building solutions at the store level, it makes sense that we also examine the supply chain and look at how biometrics can secure, for example, the delivery process.
Secondly, the wider challenge of big data was a talking point. Retailers here, like everywhere, are looking at how data can be better used across their organisation. The twin challenges of disparate systems and the sheer quantity of data were discussed. Solutions that can help retailers deep dive that data and make informed business decisions were certainly part of the conversations we were having.
Q: Looking at the retail sector as a whole, what do you feel they’re looking at for 2019 and beyond?
A: In addition to the above, there are two points that we see in our conversations with retailers here and globally.
Firstly, building solutions that enhance the customer experience, especially data driven ones, are top of mind. For example, store mapping, or the ability to map the journey of individuals during their time in store, is something that many retailers are examining so they can provide hyper localised services. We can certainly see the advantage that biometrics can bring to that process.
The second point is more obvious: Bottom-line savings. Retail has been under pressure for many years, particularly here in Australia. Competition for consumer spend has never been higher and that’s only going to continue. Solutions that deliver a benefit, either on the customer or internal business side of the equation, will be in a good position to help retailers going forward, particularly if it involves technology such as AI, robotics and machine learning.
Q: With biometrics becoming more prevalent in the retail space, where do you see the future for retailers using this technology?
A: Beyond the obvious benefit of managing and eliminating stock shrinkage, we’re seeing biometrics used in many areas where certainty of identity is required.
I mentioned the store mapping example: Biometrics, and facial recognition in particular, has the ability to revolutionise the in store customer experience. It can provide a level of personalisation for in store shoppers that is far beyond what has been achieved previously. We’re looking at options where a customer can use facial recognition at multiple points during their time in store, for example, in paying for their goods. It adds a level of convenience for the customer, improving the overall experience.
We’re also looking at how biometric technology can work alongside other platforms such as AI to form a solution for retailers. This can involve using biometrics to help connect disparate systems and provide better data insights. It can also be incredibly useful in better utilising customer loyalty programs as an example, using biometrics as a part of the process to gather more complete data sets on customer buying behaviours.
In fact, AI can even be used as a way of finding the best use of biometrics in a retail business. There’s so much data available, from both the front and back office, that we are currently working with clients to analyse this to find some very interesting ways to use biometrics throughout their operations.
Q: What advice would you give retailers looking at biometrics today?
A: For me, we’re on the cusp of biometrics becoming a core component of your identity management strategy. It’s not about looking at a specific biometric modality such as facial recognition; it’s about looking at the concept of identity as a whole. That is, where are the identity dependent processes in your organisation and how can we use biometrics to both streamline and improve them?
Biometric technology can be integrated into so many IT systems. It has the ability to connect multiple platforms to help retailers better understand the data they have at their disposal, giving them a much richer picture of many front and back of house operations. For example, at times biometrics can be looked at purely from a security standpoint, such as replacing staff access cards. While that is certainly part of the conversation, there’s so much more that can be achieved using biometrics. The ability to use biometric technology, like ours at Argus, to deliver a solution across IT platforms is one that I’d urge retailers to consider.