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Retailers using security video as a management tool

“The security video saw what I didn’t,” says Ivor Bradley, owner of The Creamery in San Francisco. “Sales shot up 100 percent.” 

By Joan Voight | Adweek

The Creamery, a café in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa district, always has a long line at the counter on sunny weekends. Work-weary hipsters abandon their nearby condos and cubicles for breakfast on the patio—all under the watchful gaze of owner Ivor Bradley. A gregarious Irishman with a management background at Whole Foods and Four Seasons hotels, he knows all the regulars and likes to stay on top of the details of his business.

Even when he’s nowhere near the premises, he keeps an eye on customers and staff by way of his smartphone, watching streaming footage via the café’s security cameras – similar to other retailers using security video as a management tool. “The mobile video lets me stand above the action,” he says. “It lets me read the crowd no matter where I am.”

It sounds a bit like Big Brother—before he tells the morning OJ story. While monitoring the breakfast rush, Bradley had noticed how people reaching the front of the line would frequently and awkwardly lean across the counter display and cut off other customers to grab a cup of fresh orange juice. Again and again it happened, but no one complained, and the busy staff didn’t notice. When Bradley himself had helped out at the counter, even he never noticed. Yet it was so clear on his smartphone screen. “The camera saw what I didn’t,” he says.

Bradley saw dramatic results after moving the juice closer to the counter. “Sales of the fresh OJ shot up 100 percent,” he says. “Plus the line moved noticeably faster.”

Take that simple fix and its nearly instant results, then multiply them across many stores, and it becomes clear why there are more retailers using security video as a management tool —from small boutiques to Walmart— and scrutinizing security video footage to improve their marketing. Such video analytics are part of a booming industry called video surveillance as a service (or VSaaS), which is expected to grow from $474 million as of 2011 to some $2.4 billion by 2017, according to MarketsandMarkets, a global market research company…

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