Insights

Footfall people counting technology: The difference is in the data

May 28, 2021

What is footfall? Why might a company want to understand it? Where is people counting most applicable?

Managing and analyzing the flow of people has never been more important within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet digging deep into the physical behaviours of consumers through footfall, people counting and foot traffic can do far more than just ensure the protection of people.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at everything a bricks and mortar business might want to know about analyzing footfall, people counting and foot traffic.

What is footfall?

Footfall, also known as foot traffic and people counting, refers to the number of people in a building (usually a retail outlet or shop) during a particular timeframe.

It might seem like a strange thing to track – if you’re busy, you’re busy, and if you’re quiet, you’re quiet, right? In essence, yes, but digging deeper to understand footfall can offer valuable, actionable insights capable of propelling the bottom line of many businesses.

Footfall definition: The number of people that visit a particular shop, shopping center, etc. over a period of time.

Examples of footfall data

By tracking footfall traffic, various data points may be populated:

  • Conversion rate: Companies may measure the percentage of people walking past a shop who enter versus those who don’t. Equally, of those that do enter, they may measure the percentage of people who make a purchase. These are both examples of conversion rates.
  • Average duration of visit: A business may be able to understand the average amount of time a visitor might spend in a store or building.
  • Heatmaps and zone counting: Shows what areas of the building visitors most commonly occupy, with heatmaps and zone counting demonstrating the typical occupancy of certain areas at any given time of day.
  • Repeat customers: Footfall solutions can also be used to track how many customers typically return to a store, and how regularly this might happen.

People counting produces more than just a set of numbers. Conversion rates, average visitor duration, heatmaps and repeat customers are all examples of valuable data that can be used for a variety of purposes.

By capturing, analyzing and understanding in-store traffic data, companies can realize a vast number of benefits.

Putting footfall data to work

Such data can inform a variety of business-related improvements, spanning everything from staffing to operations to marketing:

  • Understand a location: People counting can inform how busy an area might be. This can be highly insightful information for malls providing traffic data to potential lenders, for example.
  • Enhance planning: Demand for business in many services may fluctuate dramatically. Retail, for example, sees regular spikes around the Christmas holiday period. In order to anticipate seasonal changes in demand and plan marketing strategies accordingly, the data generated by people counting can offer vital insights.
  • Manage occupancy capacity: Social distancing has become part of the new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and managing building occupancy levels has become vital to ensuring safe experiences. People counting can help to make destination compliant with social distancing requirements.

“Pre-pandemic, stores primarily used these traffic counting technologies for labor scheduling (to make sure they had the right number of workers to meet expected demand) and to calculate conversion rates (the percentage of shoppers who entered the store who actually bought something).

“But with states and cities restricting indoor occupancy rates, and retailers adopting their own guidelines for occupancy and social distancing, those technologies have been turned into Covid-19 compliance tools.”

Joan Verdon, Senior Contributor, Retail, Forbes

  • Effective marketing: Using heatmaps and zone counting, companies may make informed decisions. Testing and determining where best to position their promotional and marketing materials using footfall data can help to maximize sales.
  • Discover low- and high-demand hours: Optimize the number of staff during both busy and quiet periods in order to boost cost efficiency.

Few of these benefits will be realized overnight. In order to use footfall data most effectively, it must be gathered over time.

How does Solink help with footfall analytics? Get in touch to know more.

How to measure foot traffic

When it comes to exploiting the aforementioned benefits, it is often a case of ‘easier said than done’.

Not so long ago, people counting was a manual process whereby an individual would use a hand tally. This method, however, has a number of drawbacks.

First, it requires a dedicated staff member to stand at an entrance point, the cost of which can be significant. Further, there is room for human error – what if the dedicated employee becomes distracted from what is a highly laborious and repetitive job? Or needs to vacate the vicinity to support a customer for a few minutes?

Thankfully, today there are easy-to-use, plug-and-play people counting systems that can help to calculate footfall.

Wifi and Bluetooth counting

bluetooth_street_wifi_bt_shops_big

Wifi and Bluetooth counting are two of the more common technologies used to support foot traffic data collection systems. These systems tap into the Wifi and Bluetooth beacons on smartphones, capable of identifying the different MAC addresses to approximate foot traffic.

Such systems are largely inaccurate, however: Not only do some people not have their Bluetooth or Wifi features turned on all times, but others may not carry smartphones at all.

Video camera detection counters

Video_camera_footfall_people_countingVideo camera detection people counting is a second technology, often coming in the form of facial recognition. These systems count all entrants just once, and don’t rely on the presence of a Wifi/Bluetooth connected smartphone.

They provide a number of benefits, making them some of the most successful people counting systems. If the same person walks into a store multiple times in one day, they will be registered as a repeat customer. Equally, they can imbed with existing camera hardware at no extra cost, integrate with additional software to deliver improved ROI, offer even more advanced insights and analytics extending far beyond footfall, and leverage the power of AI and machine learning in some instances.

Turnstiles

turnstilesTurnstiles can incorporate mechanical people counting systems similar to that of hand tallies, yet avoid the issues associated with human error. However, the key challenge is that turnstiles are not customer friendly.

While they may work for certain businesses such as stadiums or sports centers, they do not for shops and stores where easy access takes precedent. Indeed, turnstiles are not to be recommended in these instances as they hamper convenience and counterproductively damage the customer experience.

Infrared counter

Infrared_Beam_CounterInfrared counters can be created using two pairs of infrared transceivers. Where the first line is blocked and followed by a second line further into the store entrance, it counts an individual entering a building. If the opposite occurs, then it counts an individual exiting a building.

There are inaccuracies with these systems as well, however. Two people may walk into a store side by side, for example, and only count as one person. Likewise, if someone stands in the doorway, blocking the transceivers, then counting will be interrupted.

People counting method Pros Cons
Wifi and Bluetooth counting
  • Seamless customer experience, with no user interaction or opt-in required.
  • Can be inaccurate.
  • Not all people own or carry smartphones all the times.
  • Not all people have Wifi/Bluetooth capabilities turned on.
Video camera detection counting
  • Not reliant on an additional point of reference, such as a smartphone.
  • Highly accurate, with all entrants being counted and remembered individually.
  • Is able to identify repeat customers, providing opportunities for more expansive data analysis.
  • Able to imbed with existing camera hardware at no extra cost.
  • Able to integrate with additional software to deliver improved ROI.
  • Able to offer advanced insights and analytics extending far beyond footfall.
  • Able to leverage the power of AI and machine learning.
Turnstiles
  • Similar to hand tallies, but avoid the issues and costs associated with human involvement.
  • Don’t rely on any external technologies.
  • Costly to install.
  • Not a good fit for a lot of businesses, like shops, where easy access is paramount.
  • Can be damaging to the customer experience.
Infrared counting
  • A discrete system capable of counting without impeding the customer experience.
  • Two people side by side can count as one person, resulting in inaccuracies.
  • Counters can become blocked by people and objects, resulting in inaccuracies.

Who might benefit from people counting?

Retail

Retail is one industry that stands to benefit significantly from footfall data by bettering understanding of customer demands, trends and behaviors.

Using footfall insights, offerings and services can be adapted and reimagined to ensure the provision of an improved customer experience, optimized marketing efforts, maximized cost savings, bolstered sales, and more. Indeed, the benefits to be garnered from footfall systems align with the four key retail trends identified by KPMG in 2020.

Retail remains big business: Despite the Amazon effect having disrupted the traditional physical retail market, latest figures show that physical retail store sales accounted for $19.2 trillion of the total $25.04 trillion in global retail sales.

Beyond retail, people counting can also bring benefits to a variety of markets, catering to other sector-specific scenarios and helping businesses to realize real-world benefits in a multitude of ways.

Shopping malls

Shopping malls, for example, can use footfall data to understand which store fronts attract the most traffic and therefore provide more informed and logical rent prices over one-size-fits-all models.

Museums and galleries

Museums and galleries experiencing high visitor demand might use footfall systems to understand where overcrowding may be hampering customer experience, and limit either the entire museum or certain areas/exhibitions to a specified number of people. This could in turn result in both the optimized deployment of staff and enhanced revenue opportunities through additional ticketing.

Public transport

Public transport hubs such as train stations, bus and coach stations and airports can also evaluate footfall data to understand which services experience high demand and peak times. In doing so, they can optimize services, reducing the number offered during low demand and maximizing the number offered during busy hours.

 

These are just a few examples, yet footfall systems have many other potential use cases:

“We found that Solink gave us deep insight into a huge number of variables; and in the restaurant industry we have tons of variables! How we get deliveries, who goes in and out, customer interactions… Solink would help us make smart business decisions in many areas, even around deliveries and food waste.”

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“Sales during COVID are up 20 per cent or more. Solink helped us manage the increase without having to add staff because I could easily oversee operations at both locations to keep everyone productive.”

DQ franchisee increases year-over-year sales, keeps labor costs the same, thanks to Solink’s video surveillance camera system

Unlock insights with footfall data

Footfall analysis is yet another example of data making a profound difference.

Businesses are already collecting data to help enhance operations and service – it’s just a matter of using the right analytical tools to find the right information, making smart changes, and tracking the success of your hard work.

We’re here to help.

Providing people counting systems and in-depth insight solutions such as heatmaps, our features offer you insight into daily business operations, regardless of time or location, in a way never before seen.

With intuitive video search and the system data to back it up, it’s never been easier to take action with confidence.

Why Solink?

  • 92% of Solink users report that they save 5-20% on their business operations costs by reviewing their day with Solink.
  • 66% of Solink users say they save 1-10% on staff expenditures by reviewing their Solink platform regularly.
  • 25% of users have been able to save 40 hours of time per month thanks to Solink’s video and POS integrated platform.
  • Having a more efficient system helps reduce operations costs. Users start to see this reflected in their bottom line, with 34% of users saving 10%.
  • 4% of users identified times they were understaffed, and were able to increase their team accordingly.

How does Solink help with footfall analytics? Get in touch to know more.