People Counter

A modern-day breakdown of people counting tools


Written by Tony Loxton
Oct 11

If you’re a retailer, you’ll know that gathering information about your customers is crucial. The market is flooded with various retail people counter tools with which you can track customer movement, count the number of people walking through your doors, and establish and analyse trends in the way an individual interacts with the physical incarnation of your brand. Choosing the tools, however, can be a little more tricky. As new technology floods the market, so too do the variety of tools that you can use to better understand your customers’ behaviour. Some of these provide one-dimensional data, while others, like WiFi-based retail people counters, glean in-depth information that encompasses the entirety of a customer’s time within a store. To help you get to grips with the myriad tools out there, we’ve rounded up the various options available, as well as weighed up the pros and cons of each.

1. Manual people counting

The very first incarnation of foot traffic software: one human and a pen and paper. It’s old school, and not very efficient, and relies on having an extra staff member dedicated to this rather laboursome task. While this may be the cheapest option, it’s not without its (many) drawbacks. The biggest con to using this method is that it takes time – a lot of it. But if you have surplus staff standing around and twiddling their thumbs, this is a semi-effective way of not only counting the feet that walk through the door, but of gleaning additional observations about your customers (but only if your human people counter is super observant and a master scribe).

2. Thermal imaging

Used in a variety of spaces with a high footfall, such as airports, for example, thermal imaging relies on sensors to detect heat sources. Typically installed over entranceways, thermal imaging is a means of people counting but that’s where this technology’s abilities end. Since thermal imaging cannot distinguish between different individuals, you’re unable to determine whether someone is a new visitor or a repeat shopper. In addition, thermal imaging has a limited range, as opposed to wifi foot traffic software, for example, making it harder to track shoppers who’re in the periphery of the sensors. What’s more, thermal imaging comes with a hefty price tag when compared to other options on the market.

3. Active infrared cameras 

Using the technology that was originally designed for military missile guidance, infrared cameras are typically installed across the entryway to your store. Much like a beam in a house alarm, a signal is recorded whenever this beam is ‘broken’ (without the alarm bit). While this iteration of people counting software is effective at counting the overall number of shoppers who step across the threshold, so to speak, these types of tools are unable to take repeat customers into account, nor can they track the paths of shoppers as they navigate your store. In addition, this technology cannot distinguish the difference between staff, shoppers and objects like a pram or a trolley, leading to inaccurate numbers. It’s also worth noting that active infrared cameras, as well as the other ‘traditional’ people counting tools mentioned above, are designed to work over one doorway or entrance. If your store has more than one entryway, the costs of utilising these tools increases accordingly.

4. Wifi-enabled Blix Traffic

While sometimes (mistakenly) referred to as people counting technology, Blix Traffic provides a vast range of data that goes far above and beyond merely tallying up the number of people entering your store. In other words, comparing Blix Traffic to traditional people counting tools is akin to comparing a go-kart to a Mercedes there’s no contest. Thanks to the fact that this technology uses wifi signals emitted by mobile phones, the depth of the data available to retailers is extensive. Collecting information in real-time, the newest and most advanced form of footfall location analytics software enables you to track and map trends in walk-bys, dwell time, shop floor navigation, and when used across a franchise or chain, identify cross shoppers too. In short, it’s a means of measuring customer experience a crucial part of thriving in the retail space. This data is not only incredibly beneficial to marketing, but to operational decisions such as staff allocation, floor layout and trading hours.

Blix Traffic is a powerful, easy-to-use retail people counter that collects and analyses priceless information about the way your customers are behaving in-store. Find out more here.


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