Design Thinking is a technique that focuses on understanding the end-user through methods of thinking ‘outside of the box’. This consists of five phases that can be performed in a non-linear fashion – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
- Empathize – get to know your user(s), and step beyond your assumptions about their needs.
- Define – analyze the information gathered and define the main issues in a human-centered fashion.
- Ideate – thinking outside of the box, viewing the problem previously defined with different perspectives, and create innovative solutions to the problem.
- Prototype – build out the solutions to the problem, in small-scale and inexpensive ways.
- Test – use your prototypes to redefine the problem.
Design thinking figures out unknown problems and creates human-centric solutions. This method can be easily applied to the retail environment. When customers’ wants and feelings are understood, retailers can make improvements to experiences and services, which, in turn, increases customer loyalty and trust.
For example, the LPRC believes shoppers expect:
- Exactly what they came to buy is on the shelf when they want it
- A very low hassle checkout experience
- To feel safe and secure during any store visit – even at night
How do we ensure shoppers get what they expect?
- Empathize – The LPRC generates insights about the shopper by
- Asking questions – what prompts a behavior? What do people seem to care about? What is their body language saying?
- Stepping beyond assumptions – we gather information from people outside of the average or immerse ourselves directly into an experience.
- Define – We analyze the insights and define the problems to be solved.
- Ideate – The LPRC’s NextRetail Research Center, made possible by Nedap and Sensormatic, is a setting created for brainstorming innovative solutions for the problems defined. The space is designed to be fluid and can adapt to fit any need.
- Prototype – Our Simulation Lab is one way we can create prototypes of solutions. Using virtual/augmented reality, we can quickly and cost-efficiently create and tweak a number of solutions and techniques.
- Test – We can test the solutions in the Simulation Lab, as well as work with StoreLabs to test solutions in the field. We can also bring people into the Research Lab to test out solutions from our partners.
By applying design thinking, retailers can create more human-centric environments that allow for happy and repeat consumers, while fostering a setting that is conducive to innovative LP techniques and solutions that don’t disconcert the average shopper.
Focusing solely on the on-shelf product is ineffective: there are many more layers to theft and the criminal behind the act. Building the Zones of Influence allows for more coverage of all aspects of crime prevention and the retail experience. The Zones emphasize how we establish sensors in, as well as deliver, efforts in concentric zones.
These Zones of Influence have been identified as:
Zone 1: Specific points or assets
Zone 1 is anything that touches an asset, such as spider wrap around a box, or a security shelf fixture.
Zone 2: Specific interior category areas
For example, makeup aisles or fitting rooms. A common solution used for both of these is ePVMs.
Zone 3: Store entry and overall interior
Solutions for store entry include signage, EAS, ePVMs, and facial recognition.
Zone 4: Parking lot entry and interior
Exterior cameras, patrol vehicles, security guards
Zone 5: Cyber and surrounding build/social communities
This includes social media monitoring, and crime mapping.
Through this concentric zone model, the LPRC research and development vision articulates that retailers require more and better: Situational awareness (diagnoses) and a tightly focused intervention (treatment) housed within these zones to more effectively deter and mitigate crime and loss threats and events.
As proponents of an evidence-based approach to asset protection and loss prevention, the LPRC conducts extensive research to help develop effective loss and crime control solutions. We do this through a 5-step process we call the Innovation Chain.
Projects can come to the LPRC at any stage in this chain, and we help take it to the finish line.
We begin by discussing your organization’s specific needs. This can be done remotely or through a visit to our NextRetail Research Center, made possible by Sensormatic and Nedap. As we brainstorm, a clear direction emerges on how to carry out our research to reach your goals. This step is where we determine what data would help solve the problem at hand, and what type of research to conduct. This includes benchmarking surveys, offender interviews, quantitative data collection and analysis, randomized controlled trials, and much more.
Learn more about this process by listening to the LPRC Innovate episode of the CrimeScience podcast here.
We take your idea and begin implementing the necessary research method.
We are able to bring the technique/technology being studied to our Simulation Lab, where we can rapidly prototype the solution in a controlled virtual/augmented reality environment. This is incredibly useful for performing offender interviews, for example, to see how potential offenders may interact with your solution or surroundings. This step can quickly give us initial data to use moving forward.
Coming soon, we will have a retail sandbox for members to be able to choose from simulated store environments and objects, in order to promptly test out more scenarios.
Additional uses for this space can be found in our write up on utilizations of the NextRetail Research Center.
We then utilize our Research Lab, which acts as our physical mock store. With over 100 of the latest and upcoming prevention and detection technologies, a simulated in-store environment, parking lot and centralized command center environments, we have the means to further test the technique implementation/technology.
As we complete our test stage, we apply the technique/technology to an actual retail environment by means of our StoreLabs. These locations make it easy to test how real-life scenarios are affected. Retailers partner with us in the StoreLabs initiative by providing physical locations to test solutions, which allows us to collect relevant data in the real world.
After testing is completed, we measure our results and assemble the findings into a report. This report will be a compilation of the data we collected, how we analyzed it, and our suggestions moving forward for your organization. You are now ready to make a better-informed decision to help prevent theft, fraud, and violence in your organization
Interested in starting a project? Let us conduct a study that will allow your organization to make data-driven decisions. Just contact us!
The NextRetail Research Center (NRRC) is an ecosystem for human-centered design thinking in retail and loss prevention. We consider this new location a hub for innovation, allowing our researchers and the LPRC community to craft the retail landscape of the future. The following applications for the NRRC demonstrate potential ways that our members can utilize this new environment.
- Brainstorm Solutions in our Ideation Lab
The Ideation and Simulation Lab (ISL) at the NRRC is a flexible, modular space where interdisciplinary teams gather to solve problems. This space is built to be fluid, as teams have different needs at different stages of the design process. For example, we might have to provide three different subspaces for teams to work on competing solutions, and the next day we may need a theater where participants act out scenarios where the same solutions might come into play.
- Training Simulations
The immersive experiences afforded by virtual and augmented reality offer exciting improvements upon traditional training methods. The LPRC is interested in bringing behavioral insights to training programs and refining them in the NextRetail Research Center. With the use of AR/VR technology, the insights of our members, and our ongoing collection of data, we have the capability to produce effective and innovative training applications.
- Build your Store Environment in VR
One of the many exciting opportunities VR allows us is to quickly redesign stores in the morning, and shop in them the same afternoon. The LPRC is working on a VR application that will be a retail sandbox for our members. The idea is to model several store environments and create a library of objects to place within these environments. Collaborations with key industry and technology partners, including Sensormatic and Nedap, allow us to develop and iterate new assets and implementations.
- Get detailed biometric and eye-tracking data to validate new ideas
Eye-tracking technology, in both virtual reality and real stores, allows us to measure what test participants really notice. For example: To test the deterrent value of a new approach to combatting shoplifting, we could simulate multiple versions in a virtual environment, and then ask test participants to perform actions in that environment. Eye-tracking allows us to map which versions offenders and customers noticed the most and returned to visually.
Further measurements like heart rate and galvanic skin response allow us to quantify an emotional response alongside eye-tracking data. This data allows us to resolve ambiguity around new approaches and important questions in the rapidly changing retail landscape.
To start a conversation with our team on how your organization can use the NextRetail Research Center, reach out to us here.
Virtual reality is one of the fastest-growing phenomenons: in 2018 alone it reached $4.8 billion dollars in revenue from both software and hardware. Although traditionally an entertainment technology for use in cinema and video gaming, applications of virtual reality are reaching further than ever before. VR has been used in the medical field to demonstrate procedures to students. In physical rehabilitation, patients visualize their changing bodies and progress. Psychiatrists use the technology to help understand and treat phobic and traumatic disorders, addictions, and neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. Virtual reality has obvious implications in retail such as virtual customer experimentation with novel products, but what is the future of VR in loss prevention?
Employees are the first and most effective line of defense in loss prevention, and the most salient use of virtual reality in retail is in employee training. Walmart gained fame in the market after developing a program integrating virtual reality into its management training centers, called Walmart Academy. They have reported improvements in employee post-training testing of up to 15%, showing a marked increase in information retention over traditional online training modules. These improvements were especially noticeable when educating employees on new procedures, such as using the new Walmart online pickup towers. Now, Walmart is in the process of shipping 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to stores around the country to reach its goal of training over one million associates using virtual reality. This ambitious goal is being met with welcome and excitement by Walmart associates, many of which are looking forward to receiving cutting-edge training. As is one of the great benefits of this technology, Walmart uses virtual reality to create scenarios for employees that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to replicate in-store. One example of this is Walmart’s Black Friday management training, demonstrated in a report by CBS. To replicate the experience of managing a store during the rush of a Black Friday sales event, Walmart used 360° video recordings of a real store on Black Friday to challenge managers to look for real customer safety hazards among the chaos. A Walmart associate described this as an ideal training solution because it allows for total immersion in a real-life scenario, but with the ability to make mistakes and learn without risk.
Verizon, too, is developing new associate training modules using virtual reality. Like Walmart, they are using the technology to train associates for situations they are unable to replicate in real life. Specifically, Verizon is focused on targeting violent loss prevention. Although violent loss prevention incidents occur in fewer than fifty of their stores a year, thousands of managers have been trained in their armed robbery loss prevention course. Verizon Chief Security Officer Michael Mason told CBS that even though armed robberies are far from common, preparing associates to deal with a dangerous situation is a reality of life and that is worth facing if it can help them identify threats and protect themselves more effectively. “Clicking through a computer module is nothing like turning around to a gun in your face,” said Mike Currier, associate director, at the Loss Prevention Research Council’s (LPRC) summer Innovate event. Turning around to a gun in the face is actually a part of the Verizon virtual reality training. Although some Verizon managers described the training as visceral and traumatizing, they said the training helped them practice staying calm in an emergency in order to protect themselves and customers. These are just two examples of virtual reality training in the retail industry. Chipotle is even using virtual reality technology to train new associates, and Jet Blue is using it to familiarize airplane technicians with their jets.
The other big use for VR in loss prevention is in research. Like associate training, the greatest benefit of using virtual reality in loss prevention research is the ability to create scenarios that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to replicate in-store. We see this done in the treatment phobias, where a patient is exposed to a mild version of their fear with virtual reality because they are unable to confront the real fear. With virtual reality research in autism spectrum disorder, virtual reality can be used to see how research subjects interact with virtual elements of a retail environment, without ever entering a store. This allows loss prevention research to be conducted in a way that is less disruptive to business operations, while simultaneously enriching the quality of data that can be collected. New developments in virtual reality such as eye-tracking and haptic feedback (the ability to perceive touch in VR) allow for unprecedented methods of data collection. For example, eye tracking in virtual reality can allow a researcher to follow the exact gaze of a research subject. In loss prevention, this means knowing exactly where a potential offender or customer looks upon entering a store, instead of relying on participant feedback which can be skewed by questioning. The convenience and richness of data available by virtual reality make it superior for research in loss prevention.
Another mode of virtual immersion is mixed reality systems, such as the Simulation Lab located in the LPRC’s NextRetail Research Center in Gainesville, Florida, made possible by Sensormatic and Nedap. Mixed reality is created using a combination of physical and digital objects in the immersion experience, to better target participant attention and response. For example, focus groups can be virtually immersed in a store using our simulation lab, but can interact physically with real elements in a store such as a self-checkout terminal. Another advantage of this over a traditional virtual reality system is the ability to target focus groups, rather than individuals. In addition, a mixed reality room can be combined with biofeedback systems to allow for an even richer level of data collection that can be done with virtual reality systems. We believe that allowing participants to interact with the environment as well as each other will lead to the best replication of real-world conditions, because loss prevention is never an isolated event or individual interaction; it happens in the context of others. Regardless, virtual reality has both research and employee training possibilities, and will definitely play a part in the future of loss prevention and retail.
Retailers are often at the crossroads of staying on top of technology advancements for customer convenience and keeping inventory shrinkage to a minimum. Currently, many retailers are adopting self-checkout kiosks as they are well-liked by customers. However, thieves also prefer these kiosks.
The LPRC conducted an interview study of offenders (the process of which you can learn more about in this LPRC CrimeScience podcast) who admitted to shoplifting from a retail chain at least once in the previous 3 months using the self-checkout kiosks. The study was done to understand the effectiveness of stand-alone and integrated Public View Monitors (PVMs), the goal of which is to notify offenders that they are being monitored and recorded, and deterring shoplifting while using self-checkout technologies.
The study asks:
- Why do offenders choose to use self-checkout to conduct theft?
- Do offenders See, Get, and Fear the PVM?
- Do offenders perceive the risks of stealing from the areas equipped with this technology greater than those that are unequipped?
- What other deterrent factors may prevent offenders from shoplifting?
- What role do employees play in mitigating the risk of self-checkout theft?
- Are technologies or employees more effective in deterring self-checkout theft?
The conclusions drawn were not unimaginable: while PVMs do deter some people, having less attention from employees, among other things, makes shoplifters feel like it is easier to get away with committing crime.
The full results and conclusions are available for LPRC members in the Knowledge Center. If you’re a member, click here to view the report. If you would like to learn more and become a member, click here.
With the holiday season around the corner, retailers are preparing for the influx of traffic at their stores. Shoppers want to snag deals on the newest TVs, cutting-edge phones, and latest laptops. However, the perfect gifts for your friends and family are also prime targets for thieves.
Thieves take advantage of busy storefronts, large crowds, and retailers’ overstretched resources to commit crimes, hoping to go unnoticed. It is no surprise that there is a sharp uptick in shoplifting during the holiday season, resulting in billions of dollars of loss. Thieves focus their attention on popular, easily concealable items, that are difficult to trace, easy to transport and resell. While some shoplifters keep stolen goods for personal use, professional thieves resell these goods to individuals, small businesses, and even other retailers! In recent years, professional thieves have transitioned to selling a large portion of their stolen goods on popular websites such as eBay, Craigslist, and SwipSwap.
While some items, such as electronics, may seem like obvious targets of theft, others may surprise you. Here is a list of the most commonly targeted items by retail thieves based on research by the Loss Prevention Research Council.
High-end Smart Phones and Other Electronics
With the introduction of the iPhone X and the Google Pixel, many consumers will be upgrading their cell phones over the coming year. Where there is high demand, there is the possibility of theft. Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones have been some of the highest theft items for retailers. While they are often kept behind lock and key, the fact that they range in price from $400 upwards to over $1000 per phone make them enticing targets for retail thieves. Cell phone and electronics accessories are also targeted by thieves. In recent years, Beats and Bose headphones have made the list of most stolen electronics for most retailers.
Designer Clothing and Accessories
In-demand fashions are also highly targeted by thieves. These include designer handbags, belts, and clothing. High-end brands such as Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Fendi, and Tori Burch regularly make the list of most-stolen items. These are highly desirable because thieves can often make off with tens, even hundreds of articles, in a single visit. Designer articles can range from $50 to upwards of $2000 per article. Thieves can often sell these to third party resellers or individuals for up to half of the full retail price. Many thieves will brazenly load up a cart with high-end fashion items and simply walk out of a store. Others use foil-lined “magic bags” to defeat electronic sensors. This has become such a large problem that many states are adopting laws that make the possession of such bags punishable offenses.
Athletic and Casual Footwear
Athletic footwear has always been in high demand among thieves. While theft rates ebb and flow with fads, particular brands remain highly desirable, including Nike, Air Jordan, and Under Armor. Certain fashions may be popular with thieves because they are worn by a popular sports figure or pop stars, and quickly sold as a result. Because fashion changes quickly, loss prevention professionals need to be able to quickly identify which products will be the targets of theft.
Makeup, anti-aging creams, and other luxury cosmetics are highly sought-after commodities. These items are small, valuable, easy to conceal, and easy to resell on the market. Olay creams, Estée Lauder products, and certain designer colognes are all highly targeted by thieves, who sometimes sell these items online or at flea markets.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Alcoholic products are preferred targets for thieves because they can be easily concealed, and easily sold. “Vice products” such as alcohol and tobacco present special issues for retailers, especially drug stores and convenience stores. These products can sometimes result in violent crime, such as robberies. These items are heavily targeted because thieves understand there is high demand for these items because they are expensive and enjoyable to the people that regularly partake in them. Theft of alcohol can hurt retailers in unforeseen ways. Because alcohol is targeted by thieves, retailers choose to keep alcohol behind a counter or locked display, hurting sales from legitimate customers.
Common Household Goods
While expensive electronics or designer clothes may be an obvious choice for thieves, due to their high value, thieves often target common household goods such as certain brands of laundry detergent, or baby formula. Because these products are necessities, and can be very expensive, there is a built in illicit market for these products. In a few cases, law enforcement professionals have found that products such as Tide laundry detergent act as a sort of illicit currency for drug deals, given its limited traceability, high value, and a built-in demand. After all, everyone has to do laundry!
Loss Prevention Research Council. 2016. Retailer Top-High Theft Reported Items Across Categories-ORC Specific.
Payntner, Ben. “Suds for Drugs” New York Magazine. 1/6/2013