Footfall Analytics

Do you know how wifi footfall analytics actually works?


Written by Tony Loxton
Sep 6

There are a range of different people counters and foot traffic technologies available on the market today. If you’re considering installing foot traffic technology in your store, it’s important to realise that not all people counters are created equal. While some afford store managers and business owners incredibly useful insights into things like shopper behaviour, customer experience, and overall store performance, others can only tell you approximately how many people entered your store during a given time period.

This begs the question: Which system is best for you? Before you can decide which people counter is best suited to your specific needs, you need to understand how the various technologies on the market measure foot traffic and provide footfall analytics. Queue our crash-course on how people counters actually work:

Laser Beams

Laser beams are often used to measure retail foot traffic. How this kind of people counter works is simple: A beam across your store’s door counts each time a shopper crosses the threshold. The total count is then used to work out how many people visited your store during a given time period. Apart from the fact that laser beam people counters can’t provide any customer behaviour insights for example, the average time shoppers spend in your store they’re also notoriously inaccurate. This is because the laser beam can’t tell the difference between a single person crossing the threshold or two people walking abreast. Likewise, it often mistakes things like trolleys and prams for people. At the end of the day, laser beam people counters often provide inaccurate foot traffic readings.

Thermal Imaging Sensors (TIS)

Thermal imaging sensors measure foot traffic by picking up the heat signatures of shoppers as they enter or exit your store. These people counters provide better accuracy than laser beams, however, they’re much more expensive. Like laser beam people counters, thermal imaging sensors only provide a simple foot traffic count (unless you position them all over your store in order to generate a heat map that represents customer movement).

Camera-Based People Counters

Camera-based people counters provide a much higher level of accuracy than both laser beams and thermal imaging sensors. Using 3D imaging, cameras are able to not only measure foot traffic but also distinguish between children and adults. This is useful as it provides insight into customer profiles and allows you to more accurately calculate conversion rates. There are two major downfalls of camera-based people counters. The first is that if you want access to more than a simple door count, you need to install multiple cameras around your store in order to get visibility of things like customer flow and visit duration. Unfortunately, installing multiple cameras becomes extremely costly. Secondly, camera-based foot traffic technology can’t distinguish between customers and staff members. This means that staff members are often counted over and over again as they move around the store, seriously skewing your metrics.

WiFi-Based People Counters

WiFi-based people counters give you access to a much deeper level of footfall analytics than any of the other foot traffic technologies mentioned above. WiFi-based people counters gather footfall analytics data by gathering anonymous smartphone data from shoppers as they enter, browse, and exit your store. Here’s how: WiFi-enabled smartphones constantly emit ‘pings’ as they search for nearby WiFi networks. WiFi-based people counters use WiFi sensors to detect these pings, thereby tracking each unique smartphone—or, for your purposes, shopper—as they interact with your store.

WiFi-based foot traffic technology unlocks a range of meaningful insights into customer behaviour and store performance beyond a simple door count. You can measure how many unique and repeat shoppers visit your store in a set time period, track how shoppers move around your store, and measure how long shoppers tend to linger in your store. It’s also possible to count ‘walkbys’ (how many people pass by your store without entering) and nail down your ‘bounce rate’ (how many people leave your store within five minutes of entering). In addition, you don’t have to worry about staff members’ smartphones skewing your footfall analytics data because WiFi-based people counters recognise these ‘persistent devices’ as staff members. Installing WiFi-based people countersin multiple store locations even lets you track how many customers visit multiple stores.

Still not sure what kind of people counter is best for your store? Download our free white paper, Go Beyond the Door,  for an in-depth look at how advanced footfall analytics can help you improve your store’s performance.

Download our retail white paper - Go Beyond the Door

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