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The Secret to Safe, Profitable Pandemic-Era Retail? Look to Video Analytics

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The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made its mark on the retail industry, with more than 8,000 brick-and-mortar stores shutting down in 2020. Even as restrictions begin to ease, few are back up to full capacity.

So what does the future hold? One of the greatest challenges for retailers will be operating under new health and safety measures as consumers resume in-store shopping. Owners must ensure that their stores are safe for both employees and customers and comply with pandemic-era mandates.

One way to do so is by leveraging the power and versatility of video content analytics software. Nearly all retailers use surveillance cameras for security; video content analytics tools make this footage searchable, actionable and quantifiable by extracting, identifying and classifying video metadata. What this means in practice is that video content can be reviewed and acted upon — even in real time — which is especially important for businesses opening and reopening stores amid the pandemic.

Crowd Reduction

Powered by deep learning and artificial intelligence technologies, video content analysis systems can be used to benchmark traffic patterns and identify any deviations, as well as count the number of people in a given area. The systems can send alerts whenever the store occupancy limit has been reached or there’s a high concentration of shoppers in the same location. This empowers businesses to respond immediately to keep their customers safe and comfortable.

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Social Distancing

Many stores have posted marks on their floors to remind customers to stand at least six feet apart. However, this does not necessarily keep people in their “lanes.” Video analytics enable retailers to detect, monitor and analyze the spatial patterns of shoppers, including whether they are maintaining a safe distance from one another. Real-time alerts can be set up so that management can remind crowding customers to stay six feet apart. Additionally, retailers can uncover patterns in foot traffic and pinpoint aisles that are prone to bottlenecks to drive intelligent decision-making around solutions.

Face Mask Detection

We can expect face masks to be a part of the consumer experience for the foreseeable future. However, monitoring video surveillance for hours to determine whether mask mandates are violated would be a tedious task for even the hardiest security team. Thankfully, video analytics tech can distinguish whether people are wearing masks and aid intervention. Retailers can also review historical footage to decide where they should position staff, signage or kiosks offering free face masks.

Contact Tracing

In the event that an associate informs the store of a COVID-19 diagnosis, video content analysis can help with contact tracing. The retailer can track the infected person’s movements throughout the store, and proximity identification filters can be used to determine whether they came into contact with others while inside.

Foot Traffic Flow

Maintaining safety is only part of the battle that retailers face as they reopen. They must also find a way to stay in the black. Video content analytics can help managers evaluate the effectiveness of store layouts and displays based on foot traffic flow. They can measure the time spent at different displays and observe how it correlates with purchases. Combined with point of sale systems and sales data, this can lead to improved merchandising, in-store displays and increased sales.

Customer Demographics

Retailers can also use video analytics to uncover customer demographic insights. This can help stores with their advertising, merchandising and marketing strategies, empowering them to appeal to the interests of key demographics and reach new untapped audiences.

Store Security

Last but not least, video content analytics help retailers maintain safe and secure stores. They support store security and prevent inventory loss by allowing operators to review surveillance footage from multiple cameras in mere minutes, rather than hours or days. Analytics also provide filtered searches, so management can identify people or objects that fit a specific description. This saves considerable time during investigations.

As retailers continue to reopen and adjust to the new regulations, stores require tools that can help ensure both adherence to safety measures and a positive customer experience. The deployment of advanced video content analysis tools is an effective way to not only maintain health and safety compliance but streamline operational efficiency as well.


Stephanie Weagle is CMO of BriefCam. She leads BriefCam’s global marketing initiatives and is responsible for accelerating market adoption of its industry-leading video analytics solutions. Before joining BriefCam, Weagle was VP of Marketing for Corero Network Security, where she led global marketing for the company’s cyber-threat mitigation product portfolio. Previously, Weagle held senior marketing roles at Lionbridge Technologies and Novell, Inc.

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