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.
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.
- 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 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
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 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 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 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|
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Who might benefit from people counting?
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.
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, 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 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:
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.