Can Artificial Intelligence Benefit Retail Security?


Can Artificial Intelligence Benefit Retail Security?

January 16, 2020

While modern threats associated with cybercrime and data breaches are often talked about with regards to most major industries, for retailers, physical security remains a top priority. According to recently published data, retail crime in the US accounts for almost $126 billion in lost economic activity, with almost 80% of retailers listing physical crime as a top concern.

Developing effective retail security solutions and related organizational policies is central to the safe operation of all retail businesses. Not only as a way to reliably prevent the loss of key assets, but also to create a safe and welcoming environment for customers to enjoy. However, as retail theft rates rise, teams must find new ways to effectively deter criminality.

Unfortunately, retail stores may always be vulnerable to physical threats like shoplifting due to the nature of the industry. With staff required to monitor large, over-crowded public spaces alongside carrying out other professional duties. But if some security tasks could be safely performed by smart technologies, retail security operations could be dramatically improved.

With this in mind, let’s look into the question: can artificial intelligence benefit retail security?

An overview of AI in retail security

The adoption rate of AI technologies among retailers on a global scale has been rising for several years, with the compound annual growth rate for such technologies sitting at almost 40%. While AI systems may not be exclusively used to benefit retail security tasks, the ability for teams to autonomously monitor assets and analyze data has likely driven adoption rates.

Across all the security practices in which AI can be beneficial, a few key operational factors remain present. In short, the ability for AI tools to perform real-time data analytics processes enables retailers to automate many key security tasks. At a time in which many retailers may be struggling financially, the adoption of AI systems can help to alleviate heavy workloads.

Supporting customer-facing employees and security teams by automating threat detection tasks allows retailers to both improve security processes and simplify the jobs of existing staff. Taking this into account, below are some examples of how AI benefits retail security.

Loss prevention

Research suggests as many as 90% of retailers have experienced instances of theft in their stores, with 83% believing retail theft to be a major issue. Whether these offenses are down to internal theft, shoplifting or a combination of the two, retailers must find a way to reliably deter criminality and to investigate reported incidents without overexerting human resources.

By integrating AI video analytics tools into existing store security systems, security staff can program automated responses to anomalous events. Installed cameras can continuously monitor high-risk areas in search of stimuli consistent with criminality, sending alerts to staff remotely for further investigation. Modern AI algorithms can also perform situational analysis of live footage, highlighting subtle indicators of criminality to improve incident responses.

Violent offenses

Tangentially related to shoplifting offenses, many retailers have recently shared concerns regarding a notable increase in instances of in-store violence. According to one report, 88% of retailers believe shoplifters to have become more aggressive in recent years, with almost 50% revealing they’ve observed much more violent behavior in retail environments of late.

In a similar sense to loss prevention solutions, AI analytics software can be deployed to help retailers better detect and address violent offenses. Object detection software can be used to autonomously identify contraband items, while video analytics tools can be programmed to detect suspicious behaviors like crowds forming in unusual locations. These stimuli can be used as triggers for wider security tools like alarms and locks to help staff mitigate threats.

Perimeter security

The benefits of AI with regards to retail security can also stretch into perimeter security, with specially designed analytics tools able to aid staff in preventing vehicular crimes. AI-informed cameras can use License Plate Recognition (LPR) software to continuously monitor parking lots, with systems configured to warn security staff of suspicious cars around the premises.

In addition, these same solutions can be used to prevent and address muggings, attempted vehicle theft and other physical crimes that may occur around stores. Staff can be alerted to suspicious events, provided AI cameras are linked to a cloud-based management solution, with options to immediately secure perimeter access systems and contact local authorities.

Fraud detection

Aside from physical security threats, one of the biggest challenges faced by retail security teams is the identification and prevention of fraud. The number of fraudulent transactions detected by retailers has increased significantly over the last few years, with 85% believing cases of credit card fraud rose in 2023 and 70% seeing an increase in check payment fraud.

Once again, the analytical abilities of modern AI systems can be used to detect and prevent suspected instances of fraud before such transactions can impact retailers. Dynamic AI tools can detect fraud by analyzing payment data in search of patterns consistent with fraudulent activity. If an anomaly is detected, systems can immediately alert stakeholders, reject false payment methods and contact authorities or financial institutions to enact further responses.

Cyber security

Finally, while the number of cyber threats targeting most industries has risen in recent years, retailers appear to be among the most commonly impacted organizations. According to data published in 2022, 77% of retailers were hit by ransomware attacks during the previous year, an 11% increase when compared to cross-sector averages observed over the same period.

AI threat detection solutions are well-positioned to help retailers prevent these threats. With tools like endpoint detection and response programs able to continuously monitor devices and digital systems, automatically addressing cyber threats as and when they occur. Using AI in this way has been shown to help teams cut data breach costs by almost $1.8 billion.


With research suggesting retailers may be facing elevated risks with regards to both physical and cyber crimes, modern organizations must find new ways to improve security responses. While investing in more security personnel may seem like the most obvious solution to these issues, an alternative may be to better support existing teams using smart security solutions.

The ability for modern AI tools to continuously monitor high-risk locations both effectively and efficiently can help retailers to improve threat detection processes, supporting existing teams and reducing the impact of common threats. By developing smart security systems designed to suit unique commercial environments, artificial intelligence can benefit retail security.

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