How & Why You Should Set Up a People Counting System in Your Store

Kayla Matthews
Guest Contributor

Understanding shopper traffic into stores is fundamental to the most basic retail metrics, and an effective traffic counting system can provide the data needed to better serve shoppers and grow your retail business.

People counting is an essential practice for understanding the number of shoppers coming into your retail store as well as the areas they visit most. Without that information, your store(s) could take a downturn and remain that way for a while before managers notice.

If you haven’t set up a shopper traffic counting system and aren’t sure if you should, be aware that a reluctant mindset could put you behind the curve compared to competitors. Analysts project that the people-counting market will reach $2 billion by 2025. That change represents significant growth considering the $900 million market value of 2018.

Below, please find some essential tips for setting up your people-counting processes.

Choose an Accurate and Precise Solution

People-counting methodologies have substantially progressed from the days where the options were only low-tech, such as requiring people to stand at entrances with handheld clickers to measure traffic. Today’s advanced solutions are highly accurate and precise due to advancements like stereoscopic video analytics and deep learning-based artificial intelligence (AI).

You should always research to ensure the technology you deploy can give specific insights to the most pressing business questions to which you’re seeking answers – such as shoppers’ visit frequency and duration of visits, for example – and do so reliably. Otherwise, you may make business decisions based on invalid or irrelevant data.

Consider People Counting as a Part of Theft Prevention

Loss prevention is a priority for most retailers. The National Retail Federation’s 2018 report about retail security showed shoplifting as the top cause of retail shrinkage. People counting alone doesn’t stop those who want to steal. However, the metrics given by a people counter could indicate whether you need more employees in an area to deter shoplifters.

Think about an example of a store with multiple entrances. Perhaps people-counting software shows that an above-average number of individuals come through the door closest to the electronics department. If the store were dealing with an increase in gadget theft, the statistics could compel store managers to schedule more workers in that section to have a more prominent combined presence.

Additionally, many smart store analytics providers – like RetailNext – have specific Loss Prevention solution modules that add on seamlessly to shopper traffic counting solutions. Ensure your traffic counter is scalable to your business needs, both in the short-term and the long-term.

Use People Counting to Support Customer-Centric Experiences

If shoppers come into your store and feel frustrated because they have questions but can’t find nearby employees, they’ll likely get fed up. The outcome could hurt the perspectives shoppers have of your store, and the most upset individuals may not come back. Worse yet, they may advise others not to go in the first place.

By taking a close look at what your people-counting methods show and determining the ratio of employees on the sales floor to consumers browsing on it, you should be able to calculate whether your workforce numbers are sufficient to give people the service they expect and that keeps them returning as loyal customers.

A best practice in store operations is to staff according to historical and forecasted traffic, not to historical sales!

Be Aware of the Average Error Rate and Possible Misconceptions

Some people-counting methods are more accurate than others. Regardless of which options you use in the store, remain mindful of the average percentage associated with inaccuracies. When assessing the results, take the error rate into account for a more realistic picture of what happened on the premises during a certain day concerning traffic levels.

Moreover, understand how you may need to dig deeper into the data to draw correct conclusions. For example, some people counters have 3D capabilities that enable separating children from overall shopper traffic instead of lumping them in with the overall numbers. You may need to learn how to tweak the interface settings on the people-counter software to see those measurements individually.

Tweaking is worthwhile since kids don’t have the purchasing power enjoyed by adults. Failing to look at child-based metrics separately could give skewed results if you rely on the people counter to see how many people walk into the store empty-handed and leave with purchases, for example. Moreover, the ability to segregate tracks is equally important when excluding store sales associates from shopper traffic within the store.

Deploy People Counting to Assess Marketing Success

Shopper incentives delivered by omnichannel marketing can help brick-and-mortar retailers succeed, especially in a consumer landscape made exceptionally challenging by e-commerce retailers. A people counting plan can help measure the worthiness of marketing campaigns — especially those related to limited-time offers.

For example, if customers get coupons delivered to their smartphones and can only redeem them during one day, a people counter could help you compare the number of people who came in during the promotion day versus normal operations. The findings don’t indicate that additional people solely came in to take advantage of the offer, but you could compare the total increase on your people counter against the number of coupons used.

A Path to People-Counting Success

The suggestions here should give you a helpful understanding of how to use people-counting technology in your stores and why it’s smart to do so. Besides trying these strategies, always keep your store’s unique needs in mind.

About the writer: Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and retail tech writer covering big data, AI and real-time monitoring in the retail industry. To read more posts from Kayla, visit her blog, Productivity Bytes. Follower her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

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