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Is people counting worthwhile?

People counting systems have evolved over the last 10 years and a wide variety of technologies are available with varying degrees of sophistication. Some of the major technology suppliers are Storetech, Countwise, Brickstream and Shoppertrak.

Whilst widely available, the use of people counting technology is not prolific. Based on our field research, store penetration could be as low as 5 percent. This may suggest that the value to retailers is unclear, but the global market for these technologies is forecasted to grow with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14% to 2022.  This is perhaps to be expected when low penetration is combined with an urgent need to understand customer behaviour within the retail environment.

Whilst people counting solutions are definitely a step in the right direction to understanding customer behaviour it is only a small step.

Currently the most sophisticated footfall counting and visitor tracking systems provide actionable metrics. They create visibility of customer flow volumes, customer routes and congregation points along with some segmentation into basic groups. Sales data can be added to enable informed assumptions to be drawn and changes to be made to store layouts and more effective staff scheduling.

However, this is unsophisticated when compared to the information possessed by an online retailer.

Leveling the playing field

Bricks and Mortar retailers determined to survive the onslaught of online retailing, need to level the playing field. At the moment they are taking a knife to a gunfight.

They need to invest tactically to be able to undertake effective Omni channel marketing. Assuming they want to win in the long term, they need to invest strategically invest to reinvent the physical retailing experience to make the most of the advantages it has to offer.

This requires vision and commitment. Vision of what market leading physical retailing will become and a commitment to be one of the winners. For retailers without these in place it may soon be too late and the decision will be made for them. Some have already fallen and others will follow. Likewise, investors in physical retail should be reviewing their portfolios and taking decisions accordingly.

Currently it is about survival. That requires winning the arms race to deliver targeted interventions to customers in real time based on deep understanding of the customer’s current buying state.  What we term ‘Buying State Rapport’ (BSR).

Like footfall counting, location based marketing, that pushes a message to a customer based on where they are standing, is a start. But it doesn’t come close to what is required.

Increasing competition requires more than pushed offers and promotional messages. It requires the creation of WOW moments. These can only be achieved efficiently and effectively by marketers understanding and using BSR.

Using BSR and the models that underpin it, marketeers can get upstream of the crowd. They can create winning strategies and actions that effect sales growth and brand value by Wowing customers in the moments that matter most to them!

Read next: Omni Channel Marketing and Experiential Marketing

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