The Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) has done a great job of highlighting research focused on the different Zones of Influence that offenders travel through when undertaking criminal activity. The zones range from Zone 1 which is very granular, at the asset or item level, all the way to the macro level of the surrounding communities and cyberspace in Zone 5. Each of these zones represent a unique point at which we as AP/LP professionals can use different tactics to impact or influence that subject's decision making, hopefully for the better.
Historically, a lot of focus has gone into Zones 1, 2, and 3 but the recent criminal behaviors have forced us to think more about Zones 4 and 5. Zone 5 specifically is extremely large and a zone that we AP/LP professionals have less influence on due to external factors. The size and scale of Zone 5 combined with the increase in organized retail crime will require our industry to work together like never before.
In Zones 1, 2, and 3 there is a trade-off between customer experience and loss reduction
Zones 1 through 3, range from the item level all the way to the store entry, essentially anything inside of the store. In Zones 1 and 2, AP/LP professions leverage a lot of different capabilities, from locked cases, product protection, GPS trackers, to visible cameras focused on different key items and categories. In Zone 3, we leverage EAS, hard tags, store design to create the impression of control and use visible guard presence to impact the risk/reward matrix. To achieve meaningful loss reduction benefits from these tactics, typically there is a negative impact on the customer experience. In the current hyper-competitive, experience driven retail environment it’s critical to find the right balance of product protection and great customer experience, moving too far in either direction will impact profitability.
Artificial Intelligence and computer vision are starting to help identify suspicious behaviors through video, these technologies will help identify theft and reduce some of the green shopper friction in Zones 1 through 3. These technologies are showing a lot of promise for where they are in their respective development cycles. The challenge is that some of these technologies are still reactive in nature. They provide critical intelligence of a theft but once anyone has merchandise in hand we know the safety risk to associates increases dramatically and there are very few options at this point to deter the incident.
How a connected community empowers prevention in all Zones of Influence
The current siloed approach to case management benefits the prolific offenders because of the disparate systems; every retailer has its own database of incident records. These systems typically focus on single incidents and only connect one incident to one person; they don’t help connect the dots on prolific offenders. Another challenge with these historic systems is they don’t share information within your own organization that well, and they don’t share with anyone outside of the organization. Sharing intelligence requires manual effort from teams to pull information out of current siloed incident systems and then share them via email or other community tools. Prolific offenders know all of this and enjoy anonymity while they move from store to store or from retailer to retailer in Zone 5. We do our best to share information with each other, from ORCA groups to Whatsapp, Yammer, texts, and email BOLOs. However, these are still very manual processes that happen retroactively and for the most part are siloed by communities and geographical areas.
This short story of my driving, my mother’s influence on it, and one simple app explains neatly how a connected community works. A long time ago, I learned how to drive from my mother, whose driving experience was all in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Being 100% truthful, I am not proud to admit that her aggressive driving behaviors were passed onto me. This has resulted in a couple of speeding infractions in the past…
However, prior to COVID-19, when I would make my daily commute into the office or drive around town, I would always use the navigation app called Waze. The app crowdsources critical traffic intelligence, like slowdowns, speed traps, and potholes to share with the full community of drivers. At the end of the day, I leverage the connected community of drivers within Waze because it saves me time and a few speeding infractions!
We are currently trying to crowdsource prolific offender intelligence via the manual tools that are not fit for real-time intelligence sharing. These systems are not and never will be built to help AP/LP professionals become proactive. We are working harder because we aren’t using the right technology, or a single platform to create a connected community to crowdsource intelligence on prolific offenders in Zone 5.
A connected community aggregates intelligence for the industry, just as prolific offenders aren’t bound by jurisdictional lines; a connected community can aggregate the totality of that offender's events across the entire industry. This approach is how we connect the dots and give everyone the ability to create an impression of control, we can change the risk/reward matrix to benefit us in Zone 5. With a connected community, we remove the anonymity the prolific offenders benefited from; it’s much harder to move from one retailer to another because we are sharing intelligence about the offender, in real-time. Before the prolific offender moves into Zones 4, 3, 2, or 1 our teams have awareness around who they are, what distinguishing features they have, such as tattoos or scars, what products they typically go after, and who are their accomplices. A connected community empowers your teams with all the information they need to proactively prevent theft.
The below graphic shows the impacts of using technology to create a connected community can have on the industry. As discussed earlier, the current siloed approach to incident reporting inhibits the ability to connect the dots and identify repeat offenders within your own organization. With a technology system designed to connect the dots, you can connect criminal activity across your organization, that same technology can be used at the industry level so you can see the totality of offending.
I know what some of you are thinking, we have tried this before with LERPnet. The truth is LERPnet wasn’t set up for success due to the way it was designed. Retailers capture information differently, making it very hard to structure that data so you can connect the dots on prolific offenders. LERPnet was also reactive, it required retailers to manually upload data, this created a time-lag that benefits the offenders. Lastly, LERPnet failed because the underlying technology didn’t empower your entire AP/LP teams with the required intelligence to actually prevent loss.
A connected community is how our industry moves from single player to multiplayer when addressing the increasing retail crime problem. It’s a platform that reports crime in real-time, creates a network that alerts stores nearby, and systematically links criminal activity for retailers. By doing this we remove the anonymity these prolific offenders benefit from, this is how a connected community approach is different from the LERPnet approach of the past. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on how a connected community will benefit us all at the Global Retail Crime Summit on July 16.