Regardless of the type of business you run or even the industry you’re operating in, all retail establishments have at least one thing in common: theft is one of the biggest concerns they face on a daily basis. Also commonly called shrinkage, theft is perhaps THE largest single cost that stores share. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, roughly 1 out of ever 11 people in the United States is a shoplifter – which works out to be about 27 million people. Retail theft, be it internal or external, overburdens both the police and the court system, increases costs of doing business AND keeps important items out of the hands of paying customers where they belong.

Luckily, modern technology can be used to mitigate these risks as much as possible. If you’re a retail store owner or employee and you’re looking for new and inventive ways to prevent shrinkage, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Know What You’re Up Against

The most important thing to understand when it comes to preventing retail theft is that you’re not just looking for external threats – internal shrink is a very real concern, too. According to LPM Insider, employee and internal theft amounted to an incredible 34.5% of all shrinkage in 2014. This means that if you’re only trying to stop outsiders from coming in and stealing items when they’re already on the floor, you’re still leaving yourself incredibly vulnerable by ignoring such an important problem.

In terms of external theft, you can employ a number of techniques to help cut down on the issue as much as possible. In addition to security cameras, remember that your employees themselves are and will always be your first line of defense. They need to be properly educated and continually trained against what to look for in terms of shoplifters. Someone who tries to avoid the attention of employees, someone wearing a large coat on a 90 degree day in the summer and others are all telltale signs.

Remember: be proactive, not reactive. Your job isn’t to catch shoplifters – your job is to prevent shoplifters from trying to steal in the first place. If you suspect that you may have a shoplifter on your hands, many times tasking an employee to follow that person around and talk to them under the guise of being helpful (“Can I help you find something today? Can I make a personalized product recommendation? How are you doing?”) will yield better results than a fleet of security cameras.

The Devices You Should Use

If your employees themselves are where the majority of your shrink is coming from, on the other hand, technology can be your guide. Hidden cameras placed in an environment like a warehouse can be a great way to supplement any visible security cameras you DO have.

Let’s say that there are three overhead security cameras in a warehouse that are visible to all employees. After a few weeks, most employees will know what those cameras can see and what they can’t – creating certain blind spots in coverage just waiting to be taken advantage of. A 720p HD Wi-Fi IP Light Bulb Camera focused on one of those blind spots, however, is a great way to give an internal thief a false sense of security.

Likewise, nobody would bat an eye about the inclusion of a clock radio in a warehouse environment – but if that radio is the Aetos 200 Mini Clock Radio with Night Vision, suddenly your merchandise isn’t nearly as vulnerable as a would-be thief might think it is. Not only can you keep items from leaving your business, but you can identify the culprits and fire them immediately.