Footfall analysis: counting customers in store to increase engagement
What is footfall in retail?
Footfall is defined as the number of people, or traffic, entering a store, and is an important indicator of how successful a company’s marketing is at bringing customers into stores. Understanding footfall also means you can work out other key metrics such as conversion rate and average transaction value, and can help you determine demand and staffing levels.
What is footfall analysis?
In order to increase your sales and ultimately profit, it is important that you have a way of measuring and analysing your footfall. At its most basic level footfall analysis means counting the people who visit your store. The old-fashioned way was to have an employee stand at the entrance with a customer counter – a manual clicker that they used to keep track of the number of store visitors.
Newer systems use video cameras, thermal imaging, infrared beams, and facial profiling to help retailers gain a better understanding of how people move around their stores. With hourly analysis you can capture the flow of potential customers and identify customer buying behaviour and trends.
The benefits of footfall analysis
Ipsos Retail Performance, a leading global retail consultant, that provides insights into customer behaviour has outlined some of the key benefits of footfall analytics.
The company says that footfall analysis allows you to:
- Determine in-store activity
- Assess the impact, performance and success of marketing initiatives
- Tailor staffing schedules according to footfall patterns
- Improve store layout and ease customer navigation
- Optimize store performance
- Maximize sales potential
- Improve peel off rates
- Boost sales productivity and identify conversion rate profiles and patterns
- Improve performance by identifying weaker performing stores and implementing training programs
- Boost ROI by monitoring the success of marketing campaigns
- Gain a deeper insight by reviewing changes in sales volumes and the consequences of fluctuating footfall levels
- Make instant operational changes with real-time traffic data to boost conversion
- Instant access to accurate and reliable data for confident decision-making
Store managers can use the data collected to build an accurate picture of behaviour to help them make strategic decisions that can improve the instore experience and turn potential customers into loyal shoppers.
Check out the 5 key strategies to drive footfall to your stores
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How to calculate footfall
For all but the smallest stores, counting visits manually is virtually impossible. And in order to conduct a robust analysis you will need to do more than just people counting. Some of the things you will need to consider are:
- The number of people who enter your store
- The number of people who walk by without entering
- Unique vs repeat visitors
- The frequency of repeat visitors
- The average time visitors spend in you store
- The percentage of visitors who left your store within 5 minutes (known as bounce rate)
If you want to collect accurate data over and above the number of people who enter your store, you will need to invest in technology, so you don’t need to rely on manual counting. Your choice of technology will depend on the size of your store, your store layout, number and size of entrances, windows and overall aesthetics.
- Infrared counters– infrared cameras emit a beam across a point of entry, and each time the beam is broken it records a count. Intelligent systems will include an algorithm that enable the counter to determine whether the cause of the beam being broken is a genuine shopper and discount other possibilities such as a child running in and out of a door.
- Thermal cameras– thermal cameras work by monitoring a difference in temperature. They pick up a customer’s body heat and compare it to the ambient temperature of your store. They are simple to install and provide accurate data that is able to count both individuals and groups of shoppers.
- Stereo camera monitoring– stereo cameras provide highly accurate data and are able to overcome some of the issues of previous generation technology, such as shadow counting, mutli-zoning capabilities, and high-traffic counting.
- Facial profiling– for retailers wanting micro-analysis, face detection software can provide some of the most accurate analytics and shopper intelligence. Modern facial cameras can not only count the visitors to your store but also determine other metrics such as gender and age.
- WiFi analytics– WiFi will not count your store visitors in the same that cameras do but they are able to provide some deep analytics into their behaviour.
Most shoppers own smartphones so you can measure retail traffic by collecting anonymous customer data from WiFi enabled smartphones. The phone will constantly emit ‘pings’ when searching for available WiFi connections. WiFi based people counters use sensors to detect these pings and track each smartphone – or shopper – as they move around and interact with your store.
WiFi analytics allow you to measure your unique and repeat visitors and track customers as they move around the store. You can also record the number of people who walk past your store without entering, and your bounce rate. Unlike some of the camera technology used for footfall analysis you don’t need to worry about data from staff members as WiFi counters can recognise these ‘persistent devices’ and exclude them from the data.
If you have stores in multiple locations, WiFi counters can measure patterns between separate stores and tell you whether customers visit more than one location and the time between visits.
While not all shoppers carry smartphones with a large enough sample size the data collected will be statistically significant for you to conduct footfall analysis And data from WiFi counters is completely anonymous so you should not have any concerns around privacy.
The data collected from counting footfall alone can’t tell you how to run your business. However, analysing the data should provide you with lots of information to guide you in decision making. In particular it should give you insights into customer engagement and help you improve their retail experience to keep them returning to your store and purchasing more products.
Getting to know footfall is important … but what are your customers doing before and after their visits?
There is a huge industry related to footfall analytics, but few players in the market focus their efforts on actually bringing that footfall into stores.
To drive footfall to your store you need to find potential customers, and to do that you need to take the following into consideration:
- Improve your online visibility
- Run local advertising campaigns
- Improve your visual identity
- Invest in brand awareness
You also need to think about what customers will be doing once they have left your store, so don’t forget about the after-sales experience. Customers may leave reviews online, share their experiences on social media, or post pictures of your store or products. Being aware of what customers do once they left your store needs to be part of your reputation management strategy.