Trend report: 2013 Back-to-school season

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This August, parents are doing just as much back-to-school shopping as they did last year – but they’re spending less and shopping smarter.

But that doesn’t mean that retailers won’t be making as many transactions as in 2012. Studies show that parents aren’t shopping less, but simply shopping smarter. The NRF reported that 37 percent of parents said they plan to browse before buying this year.

Back-to-school is the second biggest shopping occasion of the year next to the holiday season, with more average spending than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day combined, according to National Retail Federation consumer trend data. Similar to the holiday season, back-to-school shoppers usually make several trips throughout the season – spending mass amounts of money each time.

In 2010 and 2011, American parents were concerned with saving money because of the bad state of the economy. They were more inclined to shop sales and save old supplies. As the economy improved, some shoppers became comfortable spending money again. In 2012, the NRA reported that parents spent an average of $688.62 – a record high since the recession. But that might have been more than some families bargained for, as parents are expected to cut back to $634.78 this year.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay explained in a news release.

As Shay alluded, the weight of the recession is slowly lifting from families. According to a BIGinsight study, 77 percent of American families with school-aged children said the state of the state of the economy will impact their back-to-school spending in 2013 – a slight decrease from the 80 percent who said so in 2012.

The retail world is already getting their start in accommodating this season’s smart shoppers. Last week, Staples began its back-to-school promotions, including some school supplies on sale for a penny. Even the government is adding incentives for consumers. At least 17 states are offering sales tax breaks for back-to-school shoppers.

Retail people counting software is one way for back-to-school shopping destinations can make the most out of this money-making season. Here’s how it can help:

  • Compare: Compare your store’s numbers with those of others in your chain using a retail people counting system. The data obtained can answer questions like: How are they performing during the busy back-to-school season? How much traffic are they receiving and how are they accommodating it? Are we performing as well as they are? By asking these questions and analyzing these numbers – namely the overlap of peak traffic hours and peak transaction hours – managers can determine what their store might be missing or doing wrong. For a more in-depth analysis, compare your store’s numbers to the national or regional census boundaries and metropolitan statistical area markets.
  • Prepare: Use information about your store’s peak traffic hours and peak transaction hours to make staffing adjustments and, therefore, meet customer needs. Because shoppers are shopping smarter this year, they’re going to be looking for the best quality at the best price. With an adequate shopper-to-associate ratio, associates can offer their expertise to parents looking for the best product. Also, the more associates working at each station, the less time parents have to spend in the store. Quick and helpful service makes for a satisfying experience, especially for parents who are on their third or fourth shopping trip of the season.
  • Since shoppers are likely to go straight for the sale rack, retail stores should make sure their sales are spend-worthy. For example, 10 percent-off sales aren’t too enticing, whereas buy-one-get-one sales are almost always guaranteed to do well. Retail people counting software can help stores to determine which sales and promotions work best with customers.

3 Ways to Fight Showrooming in Your Store

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stop showrooming with people countingOver the past few years, brick-and-mortar retailers have seen a change in their customers’ behavior. The wide-spread use of the Internet and smartphones has led to a trend called showrooming – the act of browsing in-store and buying online.

What is it? Showrooming includes comparing in-store and online prices, reading online reviews of in-store items, or visiting brick-and-mortar stores to gain information that isn’t found online. An example would be visiting a make-up counter to find your desired lipstick shade and then buying it for a better price online. In its Mobile Consumer Report, Vibes reported that eighty-four percent of shoppers who showroom have done so while browsing in-store.

Why does it happen? Store visitors who showroom are attempting to save themselves time and money. They don’t want to manually and aimlessly sort through clothing racks and they don’t want to purchase last-season designer items at full price. They want to find the best price for an item, seek sales and promotions, compare competing retailers and test in-store products that they plan to purchase online.

How do we identify it? Showrooming can severely affect your bottom line or worse – threaten your store’s survival. Store managers can identify showrooming by calculating their conversion rates – or the amount of customers who enter the store and exit with a purchase – by dividing transactions by traffic. A decrease in customer conversions could mean that your visitors are showrooming. They enter your store, but don’t convert to customers by making purchases. You track your traffic counts by installing an in-store people counting system that counts your customers.

How do we fight it? As the saying goes – if you can’t beat them, join them. You can’t stop your store visitors from using their smartphones, but you can make your showroom more enticing. Here are three ways to fight showrooming by using a people counting system:

1. Measure your progress.

Use people counting software to track traffic, transactions and conversions to measure your progress. You can analyze this data to identify the amount of people who are showrooming in your store. By tracking these numbers over time, you can see if your efforts have been successful.
2. Improve in-store customer service.

Analyze hourly footfall and evaluate individual employee performance in order to reallocate labor. You can determine which of your employees should be scheduled during peak shopping times. Employees with exceptional skills can offer in-store customer service that showroomers simply can’t get while shopping online.

And quantity is just as important as quality. Having an adequate shopper-to-associate ratio allows your staff to spend time with each customer – selling your products through explanations, recommendations and demonstrations. If you’re convincing enough, visitors may not even be tempted to compare prices.

3. Keep your store stocked.

Use people counting software to optimize your inventory to your advantage. Measure your footfall and product sales to make sure you always have enough of your customers’ desired items. When your items are out of stock, store visitors don’t have much choice but to look elsewhere. If you keep your best-selling and best-reviewed products in stock, they won’t have to look any further. You can also stock items that are often hard to find or out of stock online.

Your store visitors won’t have to showroom if your store offers their preferred products at preferred prices. Using a people counting system can tell you when showrooming takes place in your store and help you take the right steps to reduce it.

3 Ways to Improve In-store Service Using People Counting Software

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US businesses annually lose an estimated $83 million due to poor customer service, according to Parature. 62 percent of US consumers have switched brands in the past year due to poor customer service. If you don’t give customers a good reason to set foot in your store, they’ll shop online instead.

Online shopping is on the rise, but brick-and-mortar stores don’t have to suffer. They can keep up by improving their in-store customer service – a resource that isn’t available online.

To improve customer service, store managers should ask themselves: What makes my store unique? When are the best sales opportunities? To make the most sales, managers should showcase their store’s unique features during their peak times. You may think you know the answers to these questions, but how can you know for sure? The only way is to rely on accurate and consistent reports.
People counting software can provide detailed data accounts for each day, such as:

  • How many visitors made purchases?
  • How many didn’t?
  • When were the peak times?
  • How many employees were on the clock during peak times?
  • How many during nonpeak times?

Traditional methods just don’t cut it. In order to influence your customers, you need to know where and when they are shopping. While a POS system can provide plenty of information about sales, it can’t provide any insight to customers who browse without buying. That’s the secret to improving sales – nurturing browsers until they become buyers.

Here are three ways that store managers can improve their in-store customer service using a people counting software system:

1. Eliminate showrooming
Are you losing in-store customers to the internet? Again, the only way to know for sure is with a people counting system. With people counting data, you can examine your traffic in-house and online to identify showrooming – the act of browsing in-store and then buying online. See it as an opportunity to improve your in-store customer service: show showroomers how useful your staff can be.

2. Compare sales with stronger stores
Are you performing as well as other stores in your enterprise? People counting software can determine the difference between your peak traffic hours and transaction hours and when they overlap. And by comparing the weak and the strong, you can determine what your store might be missing.

For example: Perhaps your problem is understaffing during peak times. You can compare your employee and transaction numbers during peak and nonpeak times to figure that out.

3. Optimize and allocate labor
Make sure you have the right staff at the right time. People counting data allows you to reallocate labor and increase revenue. With people counting software, you can analyze hourly fluctuations of foot traffic and evaluate employee performance. You can do so by examining conversion and traffic rates and how they are related. This information can give insight into which employees are skilled enough to be scheduled during peak times, which employees need more training and how many employees are needed for an adequate shopper-to-associate ratio.

For example: Customer service can be as simple as keeping your fitting room staffed at all times. Customers often need assistance while trying on clothes. If you don’t schedule a skilled fitting room attendant each shift, you are missing out on opportunities to offer in-store expertise.

Your store employees are assets that your customers can use to their advantage. Online stores simply don’t offer the same real-life, face-to-face experience. Exceptional customer service will give your store a competitive edge.

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Thermal Sensors: How Your Building Can Go Green

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Green businesses benefit both the environment and their employees. They promote a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable future for anybody who steps foot in their building. And they save some money in the process.

General Electric and Walmart, for example, have been going green since 2005. By 2011, GE was able to sell $70 billion in green products and services. The company has saved so much money that it is committed to doubling its green investments to $2 billion each year for five years. Walmart invested $500 million in sustainability projects that have proved profitable – and it is also saving $500 million each year.

Sure, it is important to measure emissions, air quality and energy usage in your building – but something is missing from the equation. You can’t ensure that have a sustainable building and safe occupants unless you measure the amount of people in your building each day. Do you know how much energy your customers are consuming? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

People counters have already been proven as a useful tool for businesses to cut down on labor costs, but they can also be used to cut energy waste. Thermal people counting sensors provide accurate readings of the amount of people who have entered a zone during the day. They are more accurate than motion sensors and don’t make loud, distracting beeping noises as each person passes by.

Here’s how they can help you:

Identify and eliminate your building’s wasted utilities.

    • It’s easy to install energy-efficient devices in your building or to make sure employees use less resources, but it’s hard to control your customers’ energy consumption… unless you use a people counting system, that is. You can tailor your green efforts to the amount of people you see or serve to make sure you’re saving as much as possible.
    • More specifically, you can track the areas with the most traffic and save your allotted energy for those spaces. Instead of calculating estimates for the entire building as a whole, you could do it room by room and to maximize your energy savings.
    • Think of it this way: Why keep the lights on in the whole building if only three rooms are occupied? Why keep televisions on in a room that is rarely occupied?

Measure the effectiveness of your efforts over time.

    • Energy-efficient efforts like compact fluorescent light bulbs, smart power strips, faucet aerators and high-efficiency toilets are all well and good, but a people counter system will help you make specific estimates of your building’s needs that will ultimately save you even more energy and money.
    • By counting how many customers or visitors you have had in different zones, you will be able to calculate the amount of utilities needed vs. the amount of utilities used. How will you know the amount of utilities needed in your building if you don’t know how many people will be using them and how often?
    • With data from your thermal people counting sensor, you could even calculate an accurate rate of the consumption cost per person in your building and use it to estimate and optimize energy costs. You can see how those numbers have changed over time. Tracking traffic and observing trends can clue you in to whether or not you should continue certain efforts.
    • Data reports from your people counting system could also as a way for you to track your total amount of energy savings per person. You could share these numbers with your customers so they can better understand and appreciate your efforts.

How much are you wasting?