University budgets tight, tuition high in 2014

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bigstock-Students-Hiding-There-Face-Wit-43858558State governors are beginning to unveil their budget plans for 2014. Although things are looking up from last year for higher education budgets, universities are still expressing concern about their ability to provide for their students.


Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that his budget plan would include a $142 million increase to the University of California as well as state Universities. But he has a few conditions: that universities show measurable evidence of improved student success and promise not to raise student fees.

While Brown’s budget plan is a step in the right direction, a few problems remain. For students, tuition is still high. For universities, there is increased pressure to improve campus resources and undo the damage caused by the last few rounds of budget cuts.

Tuition has risen at universities across the country since the recession hit in 2007, so students and their families fear they will continue to struggle with the same financial issues in 2014 that they have been plagued with for the past five years. They have been financially burdened by both high tuitions and several years of schooling.

Brown said state schools aren’t graduating their students quickly enough; some students need several years to complete their degree. This growing trend is due to students not having enough money to pay full-time tuition, having to work part-time, certain classes not being offered every, and/or programs being cut. To speed up the graduation process, Brown suggested that schools be more flexible, offering online courses and other options.

His statements could be disconcerting for some universities – especially those that were already been struggled to provide for their students without the added pressure to speed up the graduation process.


Similar issues are arising in Arizona. Lawmakers increased the state’s higher education budget by $28.2 million, but tuitions remain high. At the state capitol, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said the state universities’ request for an additional $100 million was “very prudent.”

He pointed out that, aside from California, tuition in Arizona has gone up more over the last five years than any other public university system in the U.S. He also stressed the importance of educating students so that when they enter the workforce, they are able to complete “high tech, high-paying sustainable jobs.”

Campbell believes universities are not to blame. “They have done what they needed to do because I don’t think we’ve done our job,” he said.

The problem

Long story short: it isn’t time to celebrate just yet. On one hand, high tuition puts pressure on universities to make sure students are getting their money’s worth – to provide more resources, classes and services. On the other hand, even if universities are able to improve student success, students and their families will still struggle to pay tuition.

Not to mention, in general, university enrollment continues to increase. Many universities in the U.S. need the extra money to accommodate their influx of new students each year, in addition to maintaining or improving their educational offerings.

A solution

People counting systems allow universities to keep a close eye on their tight budgets while still providing exceptional service to their students. They also allow schools to saving money on labor and supplies and increase profits by determining the most profitable areas on campus.

Universities can install people counting sensors above doors, hallways and seating areas in campus buildings to track the amount of people who enter and exit each day. These numbers are sent to a central system, where the information is consolidated into a meaningful report showing how many people visited the building in a given period of time. These numbers can then be used to determine an appropriate number of staff members, building hours, supplies and resources to ensure that universities are only spending as much as they need to.

In 2014, every little bit will help for universities.

Questions to Consider When Choosing a People Counter

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Making the decision to streamline your building’s operations with a people counting system is easy. The hard part is finding ideal people counter for your bigstock-Shoppers-At-Shopping-Center-5312626building’s unique entranceway or busy area. This guide will help you distinguish between the different kinds of people counters and determine which matches your business needs.

What you need to know:

There are several types of people counters to choose from, including overhead, horizontal, wired, wireless, bidirectional and unidirectional. There are distinct differences between each:

  • Overhead vs. horizontal – Overhead people counting sensors are more compact and are mounted above your doorway. Horizontal sensors are beams that are mounted on either side of your doorway.
  • Wired vs. wireless – Some sensors require network connections, others can operate wirelessly.
  • Bidirectional vs. unidirectional – Bidirectional people counters (overhead sensors) reveal whether a person walked in or out. Unidirectional people counters (horizontal counters) cannot distinguish between in and out. Software can be used to automatically divide unidirectional counts by two.

Questions to consider:

Now that you know which people counter types you can choose from, you can narrow them down by considering how they can accommodate your building’s business needs. Here are few factors that will affect your decision:

1. What do your employees need?

Get input from the end-users themselves – your employees. Ask them about the strengths, weaknesses and trends they have noticed in your building. This will help you determine your overall business needs and people counting goals. They will be more cooperative during the installation and training process if they have a hand in the decision.

Not to mention, if they aren’t happy with the sensor and software your business chooses, it will make for a less successful install. Your employees should benefit from an improved workflow as a result of your install and your managers or shift leaders should be able to easily generate, read and analyze reports.

2. What does your entrance look like?

Is your entrance wide? In a wide entrance, horizontal sensors can lose accuracy as multiple people can enter at once and block the view of one another. In fact, the wider the entrance, the less accurate a horizontal sensor will be. Stick with an overhead sensor.

Do you have swinging doors? A horizontal sensor requires that the door only swings out, since in-swinging doors will block the beam from detection.
Is there an outlet available close by? When using a wired people counters, access to a nearby outlet is necessary.

3. What is the density of your traffic?

Do several people enter your entranceway at the same time? If so, consider an overhead sensor. As mentioned, the more traffic that passes through your entrance at once, the more likely it is that one will block the view of another. A horizontal sensor will count only one person when this happens, producing an inaccurate count.

4. How do your visitors spend their time?

Do they move around a lot? Are there specific areas they tend to mill about? Are they neglecting certain areas? If you want increased information about how customers are spending their time, then you can install several overhead sensors throughout building. Horizontal sensors are meant to be installed on either side of an entranceway, whereas overhead sensors can be installed above any area.

Do people browse in your entrance? An overhead video sensor can detect people even when they are standing still, which will help you distinguish between people who are passing in and out of your entranceway and people who are simply browsing the area.

5. What level of reporting do you need?

Do you need to read people counting reports per day or hour? If you need hourly counts to optimize labor or maintenance for peak periods, bidirectional sensors can capture the amount of people passing both in and out of the entranceway, allowing for a closer match between hourly counts and daily traffic trends. Do you need to distinguish between people entering and people leaving? Again, go with a bidirectional sensor. Unidirectional sensors cannot distinguish between in and out.

Now you’re ready to purchase your preferred people counter and start streamlining your business!

Twitter Statistics that Matter for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

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Let’s look at the future of retail. Today, technology like thermal imaging sensors and retail management software allow store owners to reduce their labor costs as well as improve their advertising and customer service. They allow brands to build loyalty by providing customers with the best in-store shopping experience possible.

However, what about what happens outside of those four walls? Brick-and-mortar retailers need to think outside the store. There’s more to optimization than state-of-the-art people counting technology and sleek point of sale systems. Brands must engage their consumers through social media to attract new customers and involve themselves in the worldwide retail conversation.

Now let’s talk about the current state of retail. Although we’re living in the age of online shopping, many retailers have yet to implement some form of e-commerce. And many brick-and-mortar retailers are skeptical that online engagement will have a significant impact on their offline, in-store sales.

Here are some statistics (from the Twitter team themselves) that demonstrate this phenomenon.

Richard Alfonsi, Twitter’s Vice President of Global Online Sales, wrote about the rise of the social medium in the retail sector on their advertising blog. He discussed the results of a recent survey about Twitter’s role in the retail experience.

“I shared how 200 million people around the globe log in to Twitter every month,” Alfonsi said on the blog. “These users send 400 million Tweets every day. And retail is one of their favorite interests.”

He shared these findings at the 2013 NRF Convention, explaining that retail and shopping conversations on Twitter increased by 60 percent from 2011 to 2012. His NRF speech was also quoted on Twitter’s Small Biz account (@TwitterSmallBiz): “The future of retail isn’t about (technology), it’s about humanity. It’s about moving people not product.”

Jonathan Stringfield, a researcher for Twitter, wrote: “Brands also turn to Twitter throughout the year. Since last September, the number of retailers on our platform increased by 1.9X. They use Twitter to connect with shoppers talking about products, deliver relevant offers and monitor shopping trends in real time across retail categories.”

A recent study found that among its respondents, Twitter affected every stage of their shopping process, from product awareness to post-purchase evaluations.

According to the 2013 Twitter survey:

  • 55% of users discuss gift ideas on Twitter
  • Two-thirds discovered new products via Twitter
  • 64% have purchased a product because of Twitter
  • 57% turn to Twitter to determine what stores to visit
  • 45% would rather take Twitter shopping with them than their husband or wife
  • 62% tweet about purchases they’ve made

People use Twitter to determine which stores they should visit and, while they are in the store, determine which products to buy. When they’ve completed their purchase, they turn to Twitter again to talk about their new item.

Still skeptical? Here is further proof that Twitter is a valuable resource for retailers in 2014.

Twitter asked Datalogix to conduct a study for 35 brands to measure the impact of both organic and paid Twitter activity on offline sales. The brands studied were retailers of beverage, food, wellness, household products, alcohol and more. Here’s what they found:

  1. Twitter engagement drives greater in-store sales. Users that engaged with a brand’s Promoted Tweets purchased more from that brand than a statistically identical control group, a 12% average sales lift. Even users who simply viewed the Promoted Tweets without engaging contributed to a 2% average lift in sales.
  2. Organic Tweets drive sales. Users that were exposed to a brand’s organic Tweets purchased more from that brand than those who were not exposed, an 8% average sales lift. The lift was three times greater among those who saw five or more organic Tweets. Brands that build their follower base and regularly tweet can increase their offline sales.
  3. Followers who see Promoted Tweets buy more. Promoted Tweets augment the sales impact. Followers who are exposed to Promoted Tweets purchased 29 percent more from that brand than followers reached by organic Tweets alone.

How are you going to use Twitter to boost your offline sales in 2014?



2014 Seasonal Retail Guide: Start the Year Right

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The New Year is a perfect opportunity to breathe new life into your business and implement new processes. Retailers can start 2014 with a bang by creating detailed marketing campaigns based on seasonal trends and shopping habits.


People counting systems can be used to determine a retail store’s peak shopping times for each month, holiday or season. Monitoring the amount of people who enter your store during a specific time period can provide valuable insight into your marketing activities. And combining that insight with knowledge of seasonal trends in the retail industry is a recipe for success.

Follow this month-by-month 2014 seasonal retail guide to help you develop a detailed marketing strategy; make peak months even more profi
able and reinvigorate shoppers during slow months.

January – Consumers often see the New Year as a starting point for change, aiming to fulfill their resolutions. For many, weight loss, fitness and smoking cessation items are at the top of their list. Not to mention, retailers who sell sports apparel or merchandise could make a killing in the advent of Super Bowl Sunday.

February – Retailers who don’t offer typical Valentine’s Day gifts can still profit by keeping cute gift ideas near the register, like a gift basket or lotion sets. Clothing retailers should also do their best to incorporate New York Fashion Week runway trends in their store, showing that they are fashion forward. Other opportunities: Mardi Gras, Ground Hog’s Day, President’s Day and Black History Month.

March – The first day of spring usually makes people start itching for summer. In preparation for spring breaks, consumers will start to purchase summer items. In preparation for summer weddings, many brides will start their registries in the spring. Retailers can take advantage of those with spring fever by offering earlybird sales on these purchases. Other opportunities: St. Patrick’s Day, Passover, Easter, March Madness and the Academy Awards.

April – By this time, spring fashions have been on the shelves for a while and consumers will expect sales. To reinvigorate shoppers during this slow month, you could do something fun or funny – for example, emailing them a coupon that congratulates them for filing their taxes. Other opportunities: Baseball Opening Day, Good Friday, April Fool’s Day, Earth Day and prom season.

May – This month has a plethora of smaller marketing opportunities. People are planning their vacations, buying gifts for Mother’s Day, graduating and moving. Choose the one that makes the most sense for your market and inspire customers to accomplish these tasks with your products. Other opportunities: Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, TV season finales and Teacher Appreciation Week.

June and July – In these months, people are concentrated on fun: attending weddings, barbecuing, having outdoor parties, lighting off fireworks, etc. Whatever your market, offer promotions on your products that are the most fun and exciting – items that encourage them to continue to have fun. Other opportunities: Father’s Day, Flag Day, first day of summer and Independence Day.

August – By and large, August is about back-to-school shopping. This means everything from clothes, shoes, supplies, appliances and furniture. Recent studies show that back-to-school shoppers are most interested in getting more for less. They’re shopping more AND saving more. That’s why it’s important to launch your best sales and promotions during this time – especially on your new fall trends.

September and October – These months are all about themes. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so do whatever you can to incorporate the color pink in your items, advertisements and displays. Of course, Halloween items reign supreme at the end of the month, so incorporating spooky imagery and colors is a must. Other opportunities: Labor Day, New York Fashion Week for Spring/Summer collections, first day of fall, Columbus Day and National Book Month.

November – Studies show that many shoppers are starting their holiday shopping extremely early. November is often spent brainstorming gift ideas, looking up prices, comparing brands and collecting coupons in preparation for Black Friday. The sooner you promote your holiday sales, the better. Other opportunities: Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and November television sweeps.

December – December is all about the holidays, too, except now shoppers have moved out of the planning phase and into more of a panic phase. Last-minute shoppers are looking for quick fixes. Also, studies show that people are beginning to become disinterested in Black Friday sales. Retailers can benefit from continuing sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas, offering last-minute shipping warnings and opportunities. Other opportunities: First day of winter, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s resolutions.

So, when is your store’s time to shine?