How People Counters Can Improve Museum Experience

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Dinosaure in museumMuseums vary from one to another. Some value education over conservation. Some value conservation over education. Museums that favor conservation are more inclined to show preserved artifacts and antiques, sparking visitor interest with an accurate portrayal of the past. More educational museums may be more inclined to show videos, introduce guest speakers and include interactive activities. Whichever the focus, museum curators want to make sure that their exhibits are eye-catching.

Museum curators want to know how visitors feel about their experience. Did they want it to end before they reached the end? Did they reach the end wanting more? Were they bored? Were they excited and engaged? It would be extremely time-consuming to invite every single guest to fill out comment cards or surveys and then review them. There is a much easier way to gain insight into visitors’ overall experience.

Installing people counters at the entrance and exit, as well as additional floors and rooms in the museum, will paint an accurate picture for curators. They can determine how many of the visitors who enter actually make it through to the exit. Smaller museums may only need a counter at the entrance and exit, while larger museums can install counters in each room, floor or wing to determine the traffic in each.

By analyzing and comparing the traffic amounts from each people counter, curators can determine the percentage of total traffic for each area or exhibit. In doing so, curators can assess interruptions or complications in the flow of visitors: “traffic jams,” no man’s lands or areas where directions are confusing. They can also determine which areas and exhibits are the most or least popular.

People counters can answer questions like:

• Where are visitors most engaged?
• Where do they lose interest?
• Where do they end their visit?

Send the right messages
Finding the answers to these questions can provide a wealth of knowledge for curators. They can figure out which areas to concentrate their efforts and their budget and which areas need more work. A lack of interest could mean that the mission or message of the museum is not being exhibited in as clear or compelling a way as it could.

Make smart business decisions
It could also help curators to determine the popularity or effectiveness of a travelling or temporary exhibit. If the exhibit does not do well, it could keep them from investing in a similar one in the future. People counters can serve as a potential money-saver in those situations, allowing curators to make more informed business decisions. On the flip side, exhibits that prove to be doing well can be expanded. Curators will be able to make this decision knowing that it will get a good response.

Incorporate technology
After comparing traffic numbers from each exhibit, museum curators may find that the exhibits or area of the museum that are getting the most footfall are more interactive or hands-on and involve technology. Depending on the size and scope of the museum, curators could use metrics from their people counting system to make a case for an increased budget to incorporate more technology-based exhibits.

The goal of each exhibit is to take the visitor back to a specific place or time period in the past while being both engaging and informative. Traffic insight can help curators effectively carry out that mission. They can provide the public with exhibits and activities that their visitors will find relevant, interesting, engaging or inspiring – while also ensuring that they reflect the mission and message of the museum and contribute to their visitors’ understanding of the past.

Trend Report: Back-to-School Buying Doesn’t Hit The Mark

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Last Month’s Low Retail Numbers: What They Mean

In 2010 and 2011, the recession caused U.S. parents to be concerned with saving money during the back-to-school shopping season, seeking sales and reusing old supplies. In 2012, they spent a record high since the recession set in. This year, it was expected that they would cut back again.

Although retailers expected a cut back, they didn’t expect one this big. It seems they thought that by offering more promotions, they could entice consumers to spend the same amount of money but on more items. However, many clothing retailers fell short of their expected growth for back-to-school shopping this August. As the economical pressure slowly lifts, U.S. consumers have started shopping again… so what gives?

In this report, we’ll discuss:

  • Why stores fell short of their expected growth
  • How the economy is effecting consumer buying habits
  • What consumers bought instead of clothing
  • How clothing stores responded
  • What these numbers mean for the rest of 2013

Big-ticket items take over

Although retail sales increased in the months prior to the back-to-school season, clothing and apparel shopping wasn’t strong. According to the Department of Commerce, retail sales increased in July, but only by 0.2 percent.

Economists believe consumers are still concerned with the high unemployment rate, high payroll taxes and low wages. Reports suggest that, this month, they chose to remain cautious by taking advantage of low interest rates and buying more immediate, big-ticket items like appliances, electronics and vehicles – leaving them with a limited budget for clothing.

Thomson Reuters tracked the same-store sales of Gap Inc., Banana Republic and Old Navy – all of which fell short of their expected increases for August. Meanwhile, home appliance retailers and car dealerships fared well.

By the numbers: Home Depot and Lowe’s reported sold sales and raised their year views. Home appliances retailer Conn’s reported a whopping 31 percent increase in their August same-store sales. Additionally, automobile sales increased 17 percent since last August. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group all reported double-digit sales gains. GM reported that it sold 275,847 vehicles in the United States in August – a number 14.7 percent higher than last August’s.

Sales increased so much that dealers wound up without enough cars to sell. Consumers took advantage of low interest rates and enticing lease deals to replace their old cars. Car dealers saw the highest number of sales since the recession set in, and maybe even before that.

According to Ken Czubay, Vice President of U.S. Sales for Ford, August 2013 marked the best retail of any month for Ford going back to August 2006.

Deep discounts result

Upon realizing that customers were keeping cautious and spending smart, retailers responded to this problem by offering deeper discounts than last year’s back-to-school season to draw customers back in.

By the numbers: American Eagle offered 40 percent off all of their merchandise both in stores and online. Last year, it offered 30 percent off select styles. Similarly, Gap offered 40 percent off t-shirts, socks and underwear, compared to 30 percent off select styles last year. Hollister and Saks both extended the length of their sales. Macy’s Labor Day sale was 25 to 75 percent off, as opposed to 20 to 60 percent in 2012.

Unsuccessful season raises concern

While offering deeper discounts may have grown their numbers, it also grew their concerns about margins. Consumers’ cautiousness could mean that retailers may have to continue to offer an increased amount of incentives until they are ready to spend more money on clothing.

Not only are retailers concerned about the cost of offering increased incentives, they are also concerned about what last month’s weak mall traffic and slow sales will mean for fall and winter sales – especially the upcoming holiday season. Some are seeing the unsuccessful back-to-school season as a bad omen. Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. recently lowered their fiscal-year outlooks.

How to Justify Requests for a Mobile POS System

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A simple people counting system can save you money by optimizing each area of your store – so think about what the combination of that and a mobile POS system could do. Mobile POS is the hottest trend in the retail industry right now, and for good reason. It streamlines your store operations and increases your service and sales.

Fortunately for stores with people counting systems, they can justify financial requests to upgrade to a mobile system. Data and reports from your people counting software allow you to view your customers and sales by day, week, month, period or year, as well as your conversion rates. You can compare and contrast your sales with previous years or other stores in your chain.

With this insight into your store, you can show an increase or decrease in customers. With that, you can prove that implementing iPad kiosks or some other mobile POS element may better service your growing number of customers – or that implementing something new and fresh may attract the new customers you have needed.

Here’s how a mobile POS system can boost your bottom line:

Costs – For starters, a mobile POS system is often less expensive than a traditional PC-based system. You can simply download software any iPads or tablets, which can cost as little as $200 each. A traditional system comes with its own hardware and software, with the whole package costing upwards of $20,000. And a people counting system can give you the same sales insights as POS reporting functions.

Line-busting – Your customers can say goodbye to long wait times and unnecessarily long shopping trips. Staff members can speed up service time – and inevitably make more sales – by cashing out customers on the spot. Having to wait in a long line could make customers abandon their purchase if they are in a hurry. They can come in, find they want, purchase it and be on their way in a matter of minutes. Speedier service will ensure their shopping experience is a quick and easy one. By analyzing traffic patterns generated from your people counting software, you can determine where employees with mobile devices or check-out kiosks should be placed.

Sales – As mentioned, mobile POS allows your staff to make sales on the actual sales floor instead of limiting them to the cash register. They can spend more time with customers, making sales and providing service. This leaves more room for cross-selling, upselling, giving recommendations, answering questions, comparing prices, etc. If you answer all of these questions for them, it will discourage them from finding their answers on the internet via showrooming. You can also grant customers access to items that are online-only or out of stock, allowing the staff to make more sales and allowing the customer to have a more pleasant shopping experience.

Advertising – You can increase and improve your in-store advertising efforts by mounting tablet technology on counters, walls and kiosks. Customers can view video advertisements while they shop, possibly even inspiring them to make an additional purchase. You can also launch in-store social marketing and promotional campaigns and test their effectiveness with your people counting system by analyzing traffic patterns in each area of your store. Your traffic reports will give you insight to which efforts were beneficial and which were not.

Labor – By allowing customers to help themselves with mobile POS, you can lower your labor percentages and reduce the need for high shopper-to-associate ratios. You will no longer need someone constantly behind the counter. You can also save money on training new employees, as most people are already familiar with smartphones and tablets. Based on traffic patterns, you can determine the best places to position the salespeople with mobile POS devices.

Customer service – People coming in and out of your store will get more customer service than ever before. They can access digital brochures, job applications and product catalogues while they shop. They can also cash themselves out or sign up to receive coupons via text message or email. You can also get feedback and provide services in an easier fashion. They can complete surveys, sign up for your customer loyalty program or check the balance of their gift cards.

Customers can gain a better understanding of your store inventory by viewing different models, colors, sizes, etc. Mobile interfaces allow fitting room attendants, floor salespeople and cashiers to provide more information about your products without making the customer wait as they travel to the POS system and back. They can simply pull up the information on a tablet or iPad. If you’re curious as to the effect increased customer service has had on your sales, you can use your people counting system to observe the change in your store’s conversion rate (footfall divided by sales transactions) over time.

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How to Leverage Social Media in Your Retail Store

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social mediaSocial media can allow retailers to showcase their brand, vision, mission and personality – and above all, reach a wider audience. Through these sites, stores can learn more about their customers wants, needs and challenges and get ideas about how they can accommodate. Eventually, well-managed social media accounts and marketing efforts will pay off. Your customers will be more involved and engaged in your brand, and your store will drive its bottom line.

Retailers across the country are using social media as tools to boost their in-store sales, and it’s working. You can find out how your online efforts are benefiting your brick-and-mortar store by keeping track of your foot traffic, sales transactions and conversion rates over time using a people counting system.

Here are ways to leverage five of the most popular social media:

Facebook
To make it easy for retailers, Facebook offers a business page template and Facebook Insights, an analytics platform. Combined with your in-store people counting system, you can compare and contrast your social media traffic to your brick-and-mortar foot traffic.

Like content marketers do with blogs, you can share local or brand-related information that you think will be useful to your friends, followers and customers so that they view you as a valuable resource. Post questions in your status asking your customers what they want to see in your store, which products they’re loving, which ones they’re hating – it’s like crowd sourcing or conducting a focus group. The good thing is, most users aren’t afraid to be brutally honest when they are able to hide behind their screen.

You can also provide your customers with an incentive to shop for your products by offering discounts to those who like your page or check-in.

Twitter
Conducting a tweet chat shows that a retailer is interested in what its shoppers have to say. They also allow you to identify influencers and engage with them. A representative leading the chat is entrusted to relay the information while also identifying worthy consumer insights for the retailer. Participant feedback can potentially supply research. By listening to consumer concerns during tweet chats, retailers could get ahead of developing trends and possibly start looking at products.

You can also use Twitter like Old Spice, Taco Bell and Charmin do – they often joke with their followers. Old Spice and Taco Bell even poked fun at each other via tweets. People browse twitter for funny or interesting one-liners, not annoying sales pitches. Think of a funny or interesting way to talk about your store and products, enticing people to come in and take a look.

Tumblr
Tumblr blogs are a great resource for retailers because they serve many of the same functions as Facebook and Twitter, but allow them to customize their own pages to coincide with their vision or brand – without limitations on character count and restrictions on design. The site also allows users to share their posts on other social media.

Retailers like Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Kate Spade and Oscar de la Renta all have beautifully-branded Tumblr blogs.

Tumblr is ideal for retailers with a target audience who is young and hip. While the blogging platform has users of all ages, the majority of its user base is in their teens or early-to-mid 20s. These young bloggers often post pictures of clothing and products they want to buy, as well as review clothing and products they have already bought – making it a perfect platform for retailers.

Instagram and Pinterest
These social media tools are perfect for retailers because they have become popular for their use of visually stimulating and aesthetically appealing images. Also, their users tend to spend a considerable amount of time scrolling through posts, browsing images of clothing and products they want to buy. Both can be accessed via the web and smartphones, making your brand extremely accessible.

Martha Stewart, Bergdorf Goodman and Anthropologie are among the many retailers who use Pinterest.

Here are a few ways to use them:

  • Sneak peeks of new merchandise
  • Behind the scenes photos and videos
  • Store-related hash tags and pinboards
  • Customer photos and reviews
  • Contests
  • Photo flashbacks

After taking these steps, you can measure how they have contributed to in-store success with your people counting system. Is your foot traffic increasing as your web traffic does? Are people finding out about your brick-and-mortar store through hash tags?

Monitoring your foot traffic will allow you to know if your social media marketing efforts have been effective. Stagnant results could mean that something is wrong – posting too much, not posting enough or not speaking to the right audience.

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