#21interviews: Beware of ‘Covid fatigue’

by Guy Yehiav. Three asset protection tips from the world’s largest retailers.

by Guy Yehiav. Asset protection, store operations, and the challenges that COVID-19 has presented for retailers, is the strongest focus of the world’s largest retailers right now. Zebra Technologies recently held its annual global Prescriptive Analytics Collaborative Training (PACT) conference, which brings together Zebra Prescriptive Analytics users to share knowledge and lessons learned over the past year. Prescriptive analytics is a software solution that analyses data to determine:

  • What is happening
  • Why it happened
  • How much it is costing you
  • What to do about it
  • Who should do it.

Amidst all the presentations, here are three of the most important asset protection (AP)  recommendations for conquering the challenges of COVID-19 from leading retailers.

1. Covid fatigue is real

The restrictions related to COVID-19 have been in place for months, and store associates might start getting lax. While this is a natural human reaction to exhaustive, repetitive tasks over an extended period, it’s important that retailers ensure their associates are staying diligent and following safety protocols to reduce the spread of Covid. The head of AP and safety for a national retailer described his challenges trying to combat associate fatigue across stores. Confronted with the prospect of widespread non-compliance with social distancing and other safety measures, the customer configured his prescriptive analytics solution to monitor the data for insights about real-time compliance. He further configured the solution to automatically send out policy reminders and action steps (all in accordance with standard operating procedure), for anyone suspected of violating these protocols. This was much more efficient than sending his investigators to visit every store for compliance audits and also freed up precious resources to focus on bigger issues. Some of their most effective countermeasures to Covid fatigue included holding frequent store safety team meetings; monitoring social distancing more closely in employee-only areas; expanding store hours for the locations where social distancing was difficult due to in-store traffic or size; and increased compliance audits.

2. Augment innovation with technology

Today’s retailers have never faced a challenge like COVID-19. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to any Covid-induced challenge, meaning that retailers are learning as they go. Innovative ideas and suggestions from your team are a necessity. But have you ever stopped to think about how your team (or organisation as a whole) approaches innovation? Is the work environment truly an incubator for ideas, or do ideas often get shot down because the stakeholders are afraid to fail?

The senior manager of AP technology for a pharmacy chain, shared his thoughts on how critical innovation would be to helping his organisation succeed despite COVID-19’s challenges. He found that innovation was often hampered by unproven return on investment (ROI) data, or doubts about internal capacity. With this discovery in mind, the customer turned to his prescriptive analytics solution and incorporated it into the innovation process. Because the solution analyses data, calculates potential value of certain activities, and runs A/B scenario testing, it was the ideal tool to add a bit more assurance to the innovation process. His team tested a new workflow proposal that incorporated drones into their inventory management process. The solution gathered data from the drones as the experiment progressed and was able to report, based on the drones’ productivity and the overall cost of inventory inaccuracies, that this idea would indeed generate ROI. The project is now progressing through the retailer’s required approvals, and the team is planning to apply for funding in the next fiscal year.

3. View the customer journey across channels

Omnichannel shopping services like buy online pick-up/return in store (BOPIS/BORIS), curbside pickup and click-and-collect, are undeniably here to stay. Like all retail innovations, these services must be evaluated and protected from fraud, training gaps and other pitfalls. Retail crime is on the rise and a large chunk of that is omnichannel fraud – or fraud that involves both ecommerce and stores. For example, one scheme involves buying a premium item online and returning a similar-looking knockoff to the store for a full refund on the former item. Unfortunately, quite a bit of omnichannel fraud falls through the cracks, as many retailers focus their AP efforts on either ecommerce fraud or in-store fraud – not fraud that crosses channels.

The director of fraud prevention at an international retailer outlined his experience pivoting his team’s focus from stores to ecommerce and uncovering omnichannel fraud in the process with his prescriptive analytics solution. His advice to the PACT audience was to have a clear view of the customer journey across channels – if you just look for ecommerce fraud and in-store fraud separately, the big cases will slip through the cracks. With the help of prescriptive analytics, his team has thwarted tens of thousands of monies’ worth of in-store, online and omnichannel fraud.


For more insights from retail and brand leaders in the #21interviews series publishing 1-21 December 2020, ahead of 2021:


#21interviews LAUNCH: 2021 comes with a disclaimer, by Louise Burgers, Publisher & Editor, RetailingAfrica.com.

#21interviews: Brands need to get brave, says Bozoma Saint John, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix.

#21interviews: The power of being purpose-led will drive brand value, by Karin Du Chenne, Chief Growth Officer Africa and the Middle East, Kantar.

#21interviews: Plan for growth in 2021, says Herman Botha, Group General Manager, PNA Group.

#21interviews: Next year will be all about authentic visual immersion, by Craig Bellingham, founder & CEO, Studio[K]irmack.

#21interviews: Covid has created a brand vulnerability, says Elouise Brink, senior marketing manager, Country Road, Woolworths Holdings.

#21interviews: Reimagining a better world without the inequality of ‘normal’, with economist and author of the post-pandemic book, FutureNEXT, Dr Iraj Abedian, talking to Retailing Africa Publisher & Editor, Louise Burgers.

#21interviews: Embrace technology at all levels, says Thabani Maluleka, business development director for Rogerwilco.

#21interviews: It will not be business as usual, by Dave Nemeth, trend forecaster & founder of at Trend Forward.

#21interviews: Lessons from an unprecedented year in retail, by Jonathan Hurvitz, CEO, Teljoy.


Guy Yehiav is general manager of Zebra Analytics, Zebra Technologies (formerly Motorola Solutions). Zebra builds enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions that provide businesses with operational visibility.


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