In-store people movement analytics: how retailers can increase their business performance

February 25, 2021

Today, retailers can benefit from technologies and tools that help to understand what drives their business. People movement tracking technologies quantify the activities in a physical store. Retailers can measure foot traffic, common customer routes through the store, “hot spots”, demographics of store visitors, and the impact of promotions and marketing campaigns on store visitation.

This article gives an overview of the most trivial to the most efficient in-store technologies for retailers. Let’s dive in!

1. Break-beam sensors

Break-beam sensors work by detecting motion. They are installed at the entrance to a store and send out a beam of light invisible to the human eye. The sensor counts each time the beam of light is passed through and understands that the person will pass through the beam of light twice: when he enters and when he leaves.

This technology is best suited for small stores or boutiques that need a simple way to measure customer visitation, providing anonymous data to their business.

Level of insights: Low

Investments: Low

2. Token-based analytics

Token-based analytics is one of the latest technologies, which involves installing low-energy electronic devices (tokens) on the shopping tools available in the store (e.g., shopping carts, rolling baskets, hand baskets, etc.). The tokens then transmit their location in real-time and collect information about each customer’s entire journey. The tracking is anonymous, as there is no way to identify a specific person holding a shopping tool.

This option is more valuable for the bigger stores, as they don’t count visitors who don’t use carts and buskets.

Level of insights: Low

Investments: Medium

Investments Medium

3. Camera-based people counting

Camera-based people counting detects people movement inside the store with a high level of accuracy.

Typically, those cameras cover the entire store and provide detailed data on in-store activity, generating accurate heat maps that analyze customer movements, dwell time, and high and low traffic areas at different times of the day. This type of counting also collects anonymized information avoiding issues related to customer privacy.

Level of insights: Medium

Investments: Medium

4. BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and Wi-Fi Beacons

Imagine passing by your favorite store at the mall and promptly receiving a push notification on your phone with a 20% off on that same dress! This is an example of “proximity marketing”.

Some stores purchase expensive location data based on cellphone data or GPS. However, there is also a lower cost, accurate and discreet tracking tool: Bluetooth Beacons.

A beacon is a small hardware device that enables data transmission to mobile devices within a specific range. Typically, beacons can only work with Bluetooth signals. However, more advanced ones, like GeoCTRL sensors, can also communicate via Wi-Fi signal. Need to mention, beacons do not require customers to connect their Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a specific beacon. They only need to be switched on.

Beacons can count footfall traffic, dwell time, the proximity of the devices to the cashier, and even identify new and regular customers. When choosing your provider, make sure they take privacy seriously and ensure the anonymization of signals.

Level of insights: High

Investments: Low

5. Visitors tracking with Wi-Fi router

We all know, Wi-Fi allows smart devices to connect to the internet wirelessly.  However, some retailers give this free solution connection “not for free”.

Wi-Fi enables track customer visits, capturing data from their smartphones with Wi-Fi enabled and connected to a network. The advantage is a low-cost and simplicity for tracking unstructured movement in large locations such as a shopping mall, stadium, or airport.

The disadvantages its low accuracy and the need for a direct network connection. On average only 10% of customers actually use the internet in-store.

Level of insights: Medium

Investments: Low

Visitors tracking with WIFI router

6. Mobile apps data

Mobile app data can provide unique and valuable insights. Mobile GPS data, for instance, which is generated by capturing satellite pings and then transmitted through mobile device apps, allows to identify exactly where the owners of the mobile devices are located (point of interest or PoI), what they do and how they move. In this way retailers can obtain, amongst many, useful socio-economic and demographic insights, understanding customers interests, flow and dwell time, location of origin or peak hours that they can leverage to boost their business and to improve their marketing strategies.

Level of insights: High

Investments: High

These are a few examples of the tracking technologies existing today. Certainly, retailers can opt among a wide range of solutions and devices, utilizing only one of them or multiple combined. Measuring and analyzing in-store traffic and customer behavior is a key element in optimizing customer experience, achieving rapid growth, and increasing productivity.

Advanced location analytics can help determine where to place specific product types, price the most profitable retail spaces, organize store layouts, optimize marketing campaigns, customize offers and discounts, and constantly track performances. Furthermore, by knowing peak days and hours, retailers can better manage staff and shifts as needed.

GeoCTRL Footfall Sensors use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection to track the audience around a store, enabling businesses to get unique insights about regular, new customers or just people walking around a location.

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