By Chrissy Blasinsky
MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—Cultivating a sense of safety and security is paramount to the customer experience. As new safety and security challenges emerge, new technologies and advanced solutions are in use that address loss prevention. One tool that many retailers are gravitating toward is artificial intelligence.
At the NACS Leadership Forum, Chris McCarrick, head of asset protection solutions, safety and technology at Kroger, shared how the company is using AI solutions to identify security priorities and help combat retail crime. McCarrick was joined on the stage by Andi Huels, global head of growth and strategy, Radius AI; Susan Sly, co-CEO and co-founder, Radius AI; and Dara Riordan, president, FaceFirst.
For several years, as Kroger has been increasing the use of self-checkout, the company’s use of AI-enabled security has increased as well. The goal is to simplify the shopping experience and help to protect customers and store employees.
When customers use a self-checkout, the scanner may not always work, a barcode isn’t recognized or an item is inadvertently missed, McCarrick explained. The scan detection is linked to the point-of-sale system, and these types of errors are easily resolved.
“Most missed scans are not malicious,” said McCarrick. For the ones that are, however, like in the case of product switching (also known as item swapping), the transaction is immediately stopped. “This is a game changer,” he said.
Some of the challenges with advancing AI solutions within a retail operation include funding and being able to build a business case that can show a return on investment.
While Kroger is moving full speed ahead, many of the grocer’s stores are using legacy equipment. The good news is that AI solutions can often work with older equipment and don’t require massive investments to get started.
Other AI security solutions that are in use, or will be, at Kroger include front-door face-watching technology, monitoring back-door areas where deliveries are received and license-plate recognition in parking lots.
Whether it is organized retail theft, violent crime or shoplifting, crime is an issue at retail. The latest FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that convenience stores/gas stations were the location of 14.1% of all robberies in 2021. (The FBI changed to a new reporting system in 2021, which makes it difficult to compare its statistics to previous years.)
As convenience retailers strive to operate a business where employees and customers feel safe from potential crimes, NACS offers free online resources that can help retailers define the best course of action for maintaining a safe environment.
Chrissy Blasinsky is NACS digital and content strategist. She can be reached at email@example.com.