Re-imagining retail crime reporting

Crime in-stores: an unwanted distraction

We're yet to meet a retailer that finds it easy to report, solve, and prevent crime in-stores.

We’ve spoken with retailers from around the world, some of whom are literally reporting hundreds of thousands of incidents a year. They do their best to connect the dots and build cases in an attempt to keep these unwanted “shoppers” out of their stores. But the consensus is that it is time-consuming and harder than it needs to be.

We’ve spent the last five years working on solving this problem. We’ve learned a lot through trial and error in partnership with our pioneering customers. In the last 12 months, they’ve reduced loss by an average of 20% and told us reporting crime, and stopping prolific offenders from targeting their stores has never been easier.

Despite these great results our customers are having, earlier this year we made the decision to completely rebuild our platform from the ground up. So why rebuild you might wonder? We want to successfully partner with retailers today and tomorrow, and globally, not just in Australia and New Zealand. We know our platform can be so much better to support retailers to stop crime in their stores.

This post covers the journey we've gone on re-imagining how reporting retail crime should work so that store teams, support office, and law enforcement can collaborate and connect the dots easily. The ultimate goal is to stop crime in stores because reporting crime without outcomes is just another cost of doing business.

Our goal is simple

To design a crime reporting process that is simple, intuitive, and dynamic to capture the right information easily. We believe that it’s not just about designing a beautiful reporting form, but the intel captured from the crime reporting process is the beginning step in solving and preventing further crime.

At Auror our ethos is that using software today shouldn’t require training. Think about Facebook with over 2 billion users who have never required training. If someone needs training to complete a crime report, then that is a failing of the crime report form, not the person reporting the crime.

The key to doing this well is to understand the various stakeholders involved in the process of reporting retail crime. We created empathy maps of the key characters involved in the retail crime reporting process. For each of them we summarised our perspective on what their overarching goal was when it comes to reporting retail crime:

Over the last 5 years, we’ve had thousands of conversations with retailers and police about how we can make retail crime reporting easier. We’ve also spent hundreds of hours watching people report crimes in various ways, including in our current platform.

From this process we identified 10 key challenges in the crime reporting process to solve for. These are what we consider to be the 3 most significant challenges to helping retailers stop crime in their stores.

1. Make the reporting process easy & flexible

Store teams are busy so capturing info needs to be fast. 

In our research we observed how busy store teams are and how many tasks they juggle running a store. User experience research has shown drop-downs and lengthy free text fields slow users down significantly. So a shift to large clickable buttons wherever possible makes completing an event report faster on both mobile phones and desktop computers. Users should also know how far through a crime report they are and be able to navigate between sections easily.

Accessible buttons that meet the 9mm minimum finger pad size. Along with best practice form design where button groups are used for 6 or more options.

Accurately capture data in a structured way

Smart forms with big buttons and dynamic fields are not only easier for store teams, they also help to capture structured data. This greatly increases investigators ability to connect the dots on repeat offending and ORC quickly.

One important area for capturing good structured data are the distinguishing features of a person.

As a user selects a distinguishing feature, a drop down of options appear, and ability to add a description to that particular distinguishing feature.

We believe another important area for capturing structured data is about what products have been stolen. Entering multiple products in an event report can be particularly time consuming. One approach to this challenge is to maintain a set of relevant product categories for different retailers and automatically return relevant results as the reporter types. Capturing product at a SKU level and product category level also enables better reporting on high-risk products categories which can drive identification of organized crime syndicates targeting particular hot products.

As a user types the name of a product, auto suggestions can help make this faster as well as grouping the SKU to particular product category the retailer wants to report on.

Report anywhere, anytime

We’ve noticed teams using mobile devices on the shop floor, and computers in the office when reviewing video footage, so the user interface needs to work equally well on different devices. We observed store teams are often pulled away from reporting the crime by another urgent task. It feels important for the event report to progressively save a draft during completion. 

Elegant responsive designs to allow users to keep track with reporting events and not lose changes along the way.

Add trespass notices easily

Reporting a retail crime event, and then completing a separate trespass notice adds unnecessary friction. Capturing trespass info while reporting a crime makes this quicker and easier.

Pre-populating the trespass period means there are even fewer clicks to enter into the system, and uploading a trespass notice automatically updates returning people each time they offend.

2. Identify repeat offending and Organized Retail Crime (ORC) groups across isolated events

Our data shows that 10% of offenders are responsible for 45% of the retail crimes reported, and we expect this figure to grow as we continue to find smarter ways of connecting the dots.

Linking the people committing crime to all the individual events they’ve been involved in quickly helps store teams identify the people they need to watch out for, lets investigators know where to focus, and helps police focus on the heavy hitters.

Search descriptors to identify known people

When store teams or investigators are dealing with a known person and reporting a new crime, they want to connect them straight away. A person lookup embedded in the crime event report can match people by a number of variables such as name quickly, even matching on descriptions like "blue contacts", "red hoodie", or "scar on left cheek". 

Uncover crime networks

As we know, professional shoplifters are often involved in multiple events. Investigators are often building cases linking this individual events together. This individual events often involve multiple accomplices so the case grows in complexity. 

We need to make it easy for investigators to connect the dots and navigate between the people involved in the events and the individual events themselves.

Examples of this include using vehicle rego to auto-link instances of the same vehicle being used in multiple crimes. This can help link people who are using the same vehicle. Another way is to link accomplices where multiple people are involved in the same event starts building out the networks of crime groups.


3. Enable collaboration between store teams, support office, and law enforcement to reach better outcomes

Collaboration is essential when reporting, solving, and preventing crime. So interactions need to be easy. 

We believe collaboration around crime fighting would be more intuitive if interactions were similar to what people do on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. For example, imagine working on a case and being able to @mention an investigator or store you are collaborating with.

Collaboration that's intuitive.

As investigations evolve, so should the crime report

Various notification types users informed as new emerges.

We’re excited to be launching our new retail crime intelligence platform in the coming months.

We very much view this as the start line, not the finish line. We look forward to working with our retail customers and law enforcement partners to continue to evolve retail crime reporting to be easier, faster, and better.

Reporting crimes in your stores, without outcomes, is just another cost to your business. It's time to change this.

Tell us your views on how retail crime reporting can be improved.