GDR’s James Mullan returned to the NRF Protect stage this time last week to deliver the final keynote at retail’s biggest loss prevention and cybercrime conference.
Held just outside the parks of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, there was nothing Mickey Mouse about the topics on this year’s agenda, as executives from many of the world’s largest firms shared a growing list of business-critical challenges facing their teams in an increasingly digital world.
For those focused on protecting their assets and staff inside the four walls of their stores, restaurants and hotels, conversations revolved around a fairly familiar-looking list: security cameras; product sensors; real-time customer monitoring and analytics; robots; shrinkage from self-checkout mis-scanning, non-scanning, ticket-switching and card fraud; sweethearting (employee theft); unscrupulous returns loopholes; digital showrooming for shoplifting; and – interestingly – the growing implications of customers’ own instincts for documenting and publishing anti-social behaviour (and volatile exchanges with staff) using their own devices.
However, for the 45 minutes allotted to GDR, James talked specifically to the new sets of challenges faced by loss prevention teams as retail increasingly moves beyond the confines of physical space and puts more and more emphasis on CX in terms of fulfilment and delivery. How can loss prevention teams hope to adequately police every exchange, as they extend to gig-economy delivery drivers or automated drone systems out in the real world?
Increasingly, that real world actually includes the inside of customers’ homes, as Walmart’s recent announcement of a preliminary rollout of its direct-to-fridge service demonstrates, following successful trials in Silicon Valley last year.
Limiting your brand’s exposure
In this new retail landscape, it’s crucial to put innovative new infrastructures in place that limit your brand’s exposure to loss, because your strengths or weaknesses in this area may soon be the key differentiating factor for shoppers when deciding from whom they feel most confident making their purchases.
Why? Because, though someone stealing a parcel from a customer’s porch once you’ve delivered it may not technically be your fault as a retailer, it’s still nevertheless definitely your problem, because it’s you they’ll associate the poor experience with. And, in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace – serving customers with hyper-entitled expectations – one poor experience is enough to lose a customer forever (and, potentially, half their friends, family and co-workers too).
Ultimately, James was suggesting that catching bad guys is only part of what will make Loss Prevention a vital component of any consumer-facing business in the future. In this new future, where customers’ experiences and impressions of your brand is determined as much by the UPS or Ocado driver that delivers your items as the retail transaction itself, the role of loss prevention is to police the quality of the CX as much as it is to police the wrong-doers that seek to muscle in on the exchange.
Thus, since your brand doesn’t truly exist outside your consumers’ experience of it, loss prevention teams are no longer simply the guardians of your assets. They are increasingly key guardians of your whole brand.
If you’d like to talk to us about how your brand could learn from these principles and use them to improve your product or service offer, this is exactly the type of project we work with our clients on. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.