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INSIGHTS

India’s retailers explore video analytics for biz intelligence

India’s retailers explore video analytics for biz intelligence
More and more Indian retailers are using video analytics for business intelligence purposes. Here we take at the state of the market.
The Indian brick-and-mortar retail industry is booming despite COVID-19 setbacks. A report from the rating agency CRISIL, just before the second pandemic wave, had estimated offline retail could grow to pre-pandemic levels this fiscal year. Although the pandemic wave and the subsequent lockdowns have inevitably dampened the sentiments, the industry continues to remain strong.
 
But more and more Indian retailers realize that their traditional methods of operations are not adequate to meet competition from online stores. When retailers in developed economies realized this several years ago, they had turned to video analytic solutions, which not only helped them gain actionable business insights but also improve security and safety.
 
The story of retail video analytics in India
 
Indian retailers have admittedly been a bit slow to acknowledge the importance of business intelligence. Some that had realized its benefit in security surveillance early on have used features like intrusion detection. But it is only now that many of them have begun using video analytics for improving operations.
 
And even its adoption began primarily with global brands with a presence in the Indian market. For instance, Arush Kakkar, Founder of the Indian video analytics company Agrex AI pointed out that the British retailer Mark and Spencer’s was their first client. And even though large Indian brands like ITC and startups like Lenskart are exploring video analytics for business intelligence, global brands like Bata continue to remain the biggest customers.
 
What features do Indian retailers want the most?
 
As the interest in video analytics for business intelligence is still in its early stages here, the needs might seem rather basic to anyone exploring advanced possibilities. Surender Gounder, Founder and CEO of the analytics firm Tango Eye, explains that the most popular features are people counting and dwell time, adding that he was surprised how much the retailers struggled to calculate the number of visitors accurately.
 
“I was very surprised to see how footfall count was such a fundamental requirement for retail operations,” Gounder said. “I was also surprised to see how difficult it was for most retailers to get the accurate number of people who enter and exit the store.”
 
Heat maps are also popular, according to Kakkar, who explained how they are beneficial.
 
“In the industries that we are targeting, which is mostly apparel and electronics, some of them need people counters while a few others want the demographics on top of it,” Kakkar said. “Heatmaps help them identify where exactly do customer’s interests lie. This would allow them to tweak layouts effectively to influence the customers. Heatmaps are quite popular across the board.”
 
Changing requirements during the pandemic
 
One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 has been the need for retailers to innovate as countries enforced lockdowns. In India, many retailers moved to omnichannel operations to sustain their businesses. With the help of some last-mile delivery startups, they took their stores online and made it easy for the customers to order products from the comfort of their homes.
 
But this threw up a host of new challenges in front of the retailers and their analytics partners. Earlier, surveillance cameras and analytics were mainly watching customers. Companies now had to watch their own employees as they packed and sent online orders from warehouses or the stores themselves.
 
For the analytics companies, this was more like compliance monitoring, wherein the system checked if employees followed protocols, packed the right items, etc.
 
“For example, DMART converted their existing stores into distribution centers for home delivery,” Kakkar pointed out. “In such a situation, there are new use cases for video analytics. “For instance, when the goods are being loaded, a security guard should be present. When a delivery is being made, the system checks if the box is closed properly. Is there overcrowding at the pick-up counter? There are many such use cases.”
 
Market on the rise
 
Video analytics will play a more significant role in the Indian retail market as the industry continues to grow. This is one of the industries that COVID-19 has impacted the most, and as businesses look to get back on track, business intelligence is critical.
 
Market awareness is still the biggest challenge. Many companies don’t understand the benefits of video analytics. Even if they do, they don’t have the resources to take action based on insights. These concerns would definitely slow the pace of growth.  
 
 
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