First stop for biz intelligence? Retail security pros

TechSec 2015: With Big Data, security not just about preventing bad things, but aligning with company goals
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Monday, February 9, 2015

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—Leveraging Big Data establishes retail security professionals as business enablers, according to four experts at TechSec2015.

Jon Shimp, VP of asset protection for Louis Vuitton, Americas; Paul McGinley, LP director for U.S. Dollar Financial Corp.; and Brad Reeves, LP director for A&P, each said that their roles now extend beyond their titles. (Headshots included here are in this order, from top to bottom, ending with Bob Beliles.)

It’s about using security’s data to build a better business relationship within organizations, Shimp said during the educational session on Day 2 of the TechSec conference, based here Feb. 3-4.

Understanding Big Data and knowing how to provide it to other departments in the company for a number of uses is what led to McGinley’s personal career advancement, he said.

As for A&P’s Reeves, “keeping up with the times” in a company that has been around for 150 years is a specific challenge that he’s risen to, and that includes his knowledge of Big Data.

Collected data from security cameras and other platforms, such as POS systems, can be used to reveal patterns, trends and associations, all of which can benefit retailers overall, noted panel moderator Bob Beliles, VP of enterprise marketing for Tyco.

“This aggregate information can be used for better insights and performance,” Beliles said. Security now is “not just preventing bad things, it is aligned with the goals of the organization.”

The panelists, representing the diversity of the retail sector, agreed wholeheartedly.

At luxury retailer Louis Vuitton, for example, “everything is client-based. We collect a lot of data for client information. Our internal executives want to target clients and see what is working,” Shimp said. “We have evolved as a business partner, not just security.”

Louis Vuitton’s data can be used to see what products individual upscale customers are lingering over. It can be used to understand what kind of music they prefer to hear in the dressing room to make their shopping experience more enjoyable—and more profitable for the retail outlet—and more.

“We have a lot more interaction with merchandising. They’re actually knocking on our door to find out what’s going on,” Shimp said.

Using Big Data differs from market to market, so the challenge is picking what you want it to do, said McGinley, whose non-bank financial services company offers short-term consumer loans, secured pawn loans, check cashing and gold-buying services, among other services.

“There’s an investment of your time to craft your rules around the data and how you’re going to use that data,” McGinley said.

He and his team spent a lot of time at first going through the incoming data, McGinley said. “A lot of it was wasted effort. You need to make sure you’re asking the right questions, what you need when you go down this route,” he said.

Dollar Financial is working on using Big Data as a “proxy for customer experience,” he said, including analyzing the time of a transaction and the number of subsystems an employee must use to complete that transaction. “We’re not quite there yet, but the data is,” he said.

At A&P, inventory is the No. 1 issue, Reeves said. The data not only tracks shrink and stock loss, but gives category managers great insight about what is selling, he said.

The data has saved A&P tens of thousands of dollars around stock loss.

“We are adding value beyond traditional security … we’re giving information to HR, category management” and others, he said. “We’re making that evolution.”

Control of Big Data is a big issue, moderator Beliles pointed out, as is taking time to think about the integrity of the system.  

“The goal is to keep it within the right realms, to follow standards while sharing as much as we can,” Shimp responded. “There’s so much data coming through. What’s important and what isn’t?”

At A&P, a chain that includes pharmacies, HIPPA and other regulations come into play so that data must be secured, Reeves said.

McGinley said his security team at Dollar Financial has made a “conscious decision to not be the owners of the data. We let that rest with IT.”

Security departments’ sharing of Big Data can only benefit security departments, the panelists said.

“Once we explained that we could do people-counting and virtual store tours with high resolution, it made it more difficult for the executive team to say no to funding [for the security team]. They want that information,” Shimp said.

McGinley and Reeves agreed.

Big Data capabilities “insulated us from the threat of losing funding,” McGinley said. “I’m not making assumptions anymore. I know what the data tells us.”

Big Data can only enhance store performance, which ultimately leads to higher sales, Beliles said.