How Computer Vision is Revolutionizing Loss Prevention Today

January 05, 2023


Loss prevention has always been at the top of retailers' priority list, and that's truer now than ever before. In fact, a report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 57% of retailers said they'd seen an increase in organized retail crime (ORC) due to COVID-19, while another 50% said they'd seen increases in shoplifting.

So what can retailers do about this sharp rise in shrink? Traditional measures like added security personnel are expensive and may actually make customers feel less safe, while video surveillance typically allows retailers to take action after the theft already happened.

Fortunately, there's a technology that can be implemented fairly quickly and easily, and it can even use your existing camera infrastructure. It's Computer Vision, and it's very quickly becoming the way of the future for retail loss prevention.

Computer Vision 101

Computer Vision may sound like science fiction or even something from the future, but it's very real — and it's very effective at enhancing almost every facet of the retail ecosystem. But what is it, exactly? IBM offers a concise definition:

Computer vision is a field of artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers and systems to derive meaningful information from digital images, videos, and other visual inputs — and take actions or make recommendations based on that information. If AI enables computers to think, computer vision enables them to see, observe, and understand.

In other words, Computer Vision is a Machine Learning system's "eyes," enabling it to analyze data via video in real time, rather than, say, a spreadsheet. For retailers, this is a game changer for a variety of aspects of in-store shopping, including:

  • Creating zone heat maps based on actual consumer traffic to optimize the floor layout
  • Measuring store traffic, pass-by traffic, display interactions, dwell times, and more
  • Detecting weapons, masks, and aggressive behavior
  • Serving in-store advertisements
  • Managing inventory levels
  • Assisting with stocking and auditing planogram compliance

But perhaps its biggest and most immediate impact today is what it can do for loss prevention.

Loss prevention of the future — today

At Sensormatic Solutions, we know a little something about the future of loss prevention. After all, it was our founder who pioneered the first electronic article surveillance (EAS) tag back in the 1960s. Today, we're still the leader in EAS technology, but it's hard not to see that video systems paired with Computer Vision technology are rapidly becoming the loss prevention technology of the future. This doesn't mean technologies like EAS are going away anytime soon — they're certainly not. Instead, they'll become all the more effective when they're augmented by all of the things Computer Vision can do.

So what exactly can it do for loss prevention?

Mitigate internal theft

More than half of retailers report that combatting internal theft has become a greater priority in the last five years, and 44% of retailers reported that it got worse as a result of the pandemic. So if you're feeling the pinch of internal theft — or just suspect you might be — Computer Vision can be your best asset for combatting it. With a camera pointed at the point of sale, Computer Vision can detect anomalies during checkout, like items not getting scanned or tags being removed on unscanned items, and issue immediate alerts. Think of it as a way of monitoring associates' behaviors for dishonest actions like removing tags from items without scanning them.

Reduce shrink at self-checkout

Self-checkout is rapidly becoming the norm for many retail sectors, largely because it's quick and convenient for consumers and it reduces retailers' need for labor. The downside, however, is that it's a huge source of lost revenue via self-scanning fraud. One survey conducted way back in 2018 found that 20% of consumers admitted to theft by not scanning all their items at self-checkout stations, and of those who admitted stealing in this manner, 50% said they did it because self-checkout security was weak or even nonexistent. An earlier study, conducted in 2015, found that out of $21 million dollars in annual self-checkout sales, $850,000 worth of goods went unpaid for. Now consider how much more prevalent self-checkout is today compared to when those studies were done — and imagine just how much retail revenue is walking out the door as a result.

With Computer Vision, however, a camera positioned above the self-checkout terminal can not only tell when items aren't properly scanned, it can alert loss prevention personnel inside the store immediately.

Combat ORC and shelf sweeps

Organized retail crime (ORC) is on the rise, and retailers are feeling its impact on their bottom lines. In fact, almost 70% of storefronts reported increased theft during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail estimates that ORC costs retailers $45 billion annually. That's a huge amount of lost revenue, but Computer Vision can come to the rescue.


One way is by detecting "shelf sweeps," the act in which ORC criminals clear an entire shelf of products they intend to steal. Another is by detecting unusually large groups of people entering or forming within stores. This is common ORC behavior, often used to intimidate associates or conceal theft by forming a large group that prevent associates or cameras from seeing the would-be thief conceal items they intend to steal. In both cases, Computer Vision can detect them and instantly alert loss prevention personnel who can intervene to mitigate that theft.

Protect shoppers in your parking lots

Criminal activity doesn't just take place inside of retail stores — it often happens in parking lots, too. That's because criminals often opt to park and wait for an easy target or one carrying purchases they can easily resell. Configuring Computer Vision technology to detect cars parked for unusual lengths of time and then alert loss prevention officers can only keep shoppers safer in your parking lots, it can also protect your brand reputation and save you from costly liability suits, as well.

Deter after-hours loitering

Retail crime doesn't just happen during business hours. To prevent break-ins, Computer Vision can detect people or groups loitering around store premises after hours and — you guessed it — issue alerts to loss prevention officers.

The future comes faster than you think

With all of these game changing capabilities, implementing Computer Vision across all your stores must surely be a huge undertaking, right? Not so! In fact, many Computer Vision technologies — including ours — can piggyback on your existing camera infrastructure and require relatively little computing power to operate. That makes it quick to deploy and cost-effective to operate.

What's not to like about that?

Learn more

This is just a fraction of what Computer Vision can do for loss prevention — and for retail in general. There's much more to learn about all the ways this must-have technology can deliver improved efficiencies and better outcomes for retailers, ranging from better store pathing to improved customer journeys to even person of interest-recognition and cashier-less points of sale. To see the full picture, download our report, Computer Vision and the Future of Retail: Better Shopper Experiences, Improved Loss Prevention, and Optimized Operations, today.


Explore Related Topics

visionworks occupancy screen

Learn more about Computer Vision today.

Contact Us