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RETAIL ENVIRONMENT

Lockdown Mach 2 - can retail survive?

As we approach the end of a turbulent year, 2020 has undoubtedly earned its place in history for all the wrong reasons. Not least the unprecedented restrictions placed on the free world as we know it to curb a deadly virus that has shown mankind no mercy.

Whilst we mourn the loss of life as we knew it and try to embrace a ‘new normal’, what does this mean for our Great British High Street, a phenomenon that has already suffered much decline over previous years? Having been closed for the entire duration of the first lockdown, our high streets saw a small bounce back in footfall in the summer which gave hope that perhaps a recovery was possible.  

However, now that we are part way through a new four-week lockdown, how can we expect our high street retailers to survive now? The proverbial eggs of hope making sales and recouping any remnants of losses were all placed in the basket of peak trade. 

With this plan all but well and truly out the window, where will the peak trade party be held this year? No prizes for guessing it will be all happening online. This year isn’t any different to the last few years where online shopping has rapidly increased as shoppers prefer to do their Christmas shopping in the comfort of their own homes. 

What is different this year is choice – there is none. A national lockdown means there will be no Christmas markets to entice customers, no turning on of the Christmas lights festivals and potentially, for the first time in history, we will see no trade in our high streets up and down the country in the lead up to Christmas.

However, as we have proved many times before, we can evolve as retailers. We recognise that bricks and mortar shopping has changed forever, and some retailers have already began serving coffee when you pop in to buy your new clothing item of choice and others opening up ‘experience shops’ where you can pop in for a blow dry on your way to drinks after work.

Whatever the future of bricks and mortar, it is evident the only place we can now enjoy full peak trade promotion is online. But can we trust every basket checkout? Absolutely not! It is precisely at these uncertain times that fraudsters will be looking to maximise their gains.

We need to focus on how we can prevent our losses online more than ever. Siloed approaches have proved to only take us so far, hence why every major retailer collaborates with each other to a more or lesser degree when it comes to bricks and mortar loss prevention. Why should our online channel be any different? Developing industry collaboration will provide safety in numbers and send out a strong message to fraudsters looking to exploit our loopholes.

Collaborative online strategy is one place herd immunity will work! 

One such way of doing this is by looking at customer claims and returns. Putting your strategic pieces in place now has never been so vital to stem preventable online losses in the face of a terrible year for retail sales.

We can no longer assume that just because a customer has manged to hop, skip and jump their way through our upfront order screening process that they are genuine. There is a plethora of online literature documenting how customers can bypass claims criteria for specific retailers. This demonstrates the cynical intent individuals will employ to defraud our retailers on an organised level.

Now more than ever as retailers, we cannot afford to continue to ‘take the hit’ of these types of offences - we must work together to identify these organised traits and weed them out of our customer base. 

Thankfully there is a solution to help retailers in developing and identifying fraudulent claims. Claims Detect Online is an affordable, and arguably an indispensable tool to add to your online fraud screening processes. As retailers try to race to the top of the charts in sales, let's not forget the dangers that lurk in the dark parts of the online arena.

Whilst it is always important to focus on upfront payment/basket screening processes to protect yourselves from these types of losses, its also necessary to balance this approach by looking at the whole customer journey including returns and claims. We don’t think twice about collaborating with others on bricks and mortar offenders or sharing stolen payment details through various online tools, and it is essential we do the same with our claims.

Whatever solution you choose to employ, the advice is to adapt quickly - survival of the fittest is key here. It is going to be a bumpy time ahead as the economy feels the bite of mass redundancies and consumer purse strings are tightened.

The temptation to exploit loopholes will grow and with online literature already exposing your business’s loopholes and dressing it up to look like a customer service issue rather than calling it for what it is - fraud - the race to be the most secure as a business has well and truly begun.

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