In years past, store traffic was a simple measure – the number of shoppers who entered the store – and traffic counts were critical in determining core retail metrics like conversion (i.e.; the percentage of shoppers who actually purchased, and calculates as the number of transactions divided by store traffic). Traffic only told the story of “how many.” Nothing more. Retailers wanted to know more about their shoppers, but additional data collection included methods like surveying, and was very manual and very expensive. That was then. This is now. Traffic 2.0 is the latest generation of traffic counting, and it doesn’t stop at “how many.” Today, it includes “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when,” and when brought all together, goes a long way to determining “why” and “why not”.
Buying a people counter is often considered a long term investment. It is now widely accepted that an accurate and reliable traffic count is a key metric in the world of retail and shopping centers. Most large retailers have at least one technology installed, and if you ask them, most would tell you they cannot run their business without it.
Although people counters are now mainstream, it is still difficult to find buying guides, guidelines or tips on what people counting technology is needed in your store. My goal today is to change that and give you all the information you need on what can be a confusing topic for some retailers.
While I write this article I’ll reference our products, but only do so occasionally, so that this can become a go to reference on people counting solutions. I want to present to you what I’ve learned in the last ten years testing different technologies, supporting customers, and speaking with them about their experiences.
Let’s split the analysis in to two scenarios: 1. if you are not counting 2. if you are already counting but want to change your current solution
How Effective Are Beam Solutions as Customer Counters?
The beam solution is the “original” method of counting traffic. Even today, beam solutions produce a reliable number and can obtain high accuracy, but their effectiveness is highly dependent on the following:
Firstly, for a beam system to work, it needs a clear line of sight between its two components. These are usually called a receiver and a transmitter.They are installed on each side of the door and this is where point #1 and #2 are important.
Regarding point #1, beams can have a high range (15 to 25 feet is typical and up to 100 feet is possible). If your entrance is extremely broad and/or it possesses displays, such as a table or a rack with items, it could cause the beam to get blocked by the display and render it ineffective. If displays encourage people to stop where the beam is, the person can block it, and sometimes they can obstruct it long enough to avoid the counting of other people entering the location.
Now to point #2- the entrance design. Particularly in malls, entrances have evolved tremendously in the last ten years. Frameless design with glass doors is growing in popularity, which makes the installation of the beam almost impossible because of the effect it would have on the store layout. Also,the lack ofa door frame to mount the beam and thefact that the doors now create a backswing that blocks the beam when they are opened make it close to impossible to consider a beam based traffic counting system Regarding point #3, the beam is a passive and simple system. This means that if your traffic flow is high, and two or more people are entering your store side by side at the same time, the beam will only count this as one person.