According to a survey by SDR/LPM, loss prevention executives are more likely than security counterparts in other industries to believe that a pilot study or field test is an effective way to show senior management that a project is a good idea.
In addition to being an effective tool of persuasion, a pilot study can help remove bugs from a project, indicate ways to improve it before an enterprise-wide roll-out, and may yield surprising results, which can stop you from investing in the wrong security equipment. In one case study, LP experts said they examined three different theft-prevention technologies and had predicted the payback period for each. But when the results came in, the team discovered actual payback periods differed sharply from what they had anticipated, and even upended their view of the most cost-effective anti-theft option.
It’s natural that LP executives, who deal with a high volume of security incidents, would see the greatest value in pilot programs. It is easier to measure the efficacy of new devices or security systems for retail stores than in other industries. A store that experiences a reduction from 180 to 45 shoplifting incidents per month after implementing a new LP tool probably has good evidence of its effectiveness, whereas in industries such as business services—that typically tackle far fewer security incidents—measuring success in a pilot study is harder to do. It’s tough to draw any meaningful lessons from incident data when they decrease from two to one per month or increase by the same amount.
But even when pilot studies are somewhat easier to learn from, they must still be designed with scientific principles in mind to provide reliable conclusions. From selecting an unrepresentative store location to failing to train staff, it’s easy to inject variables into a pilot study, in which case the results cease to be an accurate measure of the subject of the study.
From a large grocery chain that regularly conducts field tests and Carnegie Mellon University research on conducting effective pilot studies, the following are best practices for conducting tests and achieving confidence in the results: