Can People Counters Prevent Library Budget Cuts?

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  2. 2016

prevent library budget cutsLibraries everywhere are competing for fewer financial resources these days, even as their importance to their communities grows. So what can institutions do to prevent library budget cuts and continue to expand and serve their patrons?

Libraries have evolved into more than just a destination for academia and research. They are critical community spaces, serving a wide range of patrons from schoolkids to seniors. A mother might bring in her toddler and pass a rainy afternoon reading books in the children’s room or an out-of-work library patron may faithfully take advantage of the library’s job-hunting resources. The modern library is many things to many people.

The range of important activities mentioned above often aren’t taken into account when many libraries tally visitors, logging patron counts solely based on materials such as books or videos being checked out. By overlooking patrons’ library usage that doesn’t involve taking media home, libraries are missing out on understanding exactly how community members are using their resources.

Many libraries still rely on archaic methods of counting visitors, such as asking an employee to tally each patron who comes in. But it’s easy for staff to become distracted or need to turn their attention to a patron inquiry, which can result in some visitors entering uncounted and yield an inaccurate total. Manual traffic counts are stressful (just ask anyone who has ever done one!) and a waste of your personnel’s time.

To prevent library budget cuts, institutions should utilize people counters to gain accurate insights into how the facility is being used. People-counting data shows patterns of usage over time, helping libraries to identify periods of peak demand as well as times when the volume of visitors is low. In addition, data from people counters can show in black and white the success of a library’s previous programs, which can be useful when trying to secure funding for new initiatives and ideas.

Most libraries are asked about program participant numbers, daily traffic stats and how many people attended the most recent library events when they submit grant proposals. Without hard numbers in hand, it’s often more difficult for libraries to get their proposals funded. With so much at stake, especially as municipalities are hard pressed to allocate dollars resourcefully and judiciously, to prevent library budget cuts be sure your institution has the essential people counting data to back up the funding you’re asking for. Paint a very clear picture for budget decision-makers; after all, it’s hard to argue with numbers and facts.

As libraries evolve from repositories of books and physical media into centers for Internet and technology access, these institution must also embrace the role of technology in advancing their operations and furthering their mission and goals. People counters are a valuable resource that can prevent library budget cuts by demonstrating the institution’s indispensable importance to the community. This technology can be the key difference-maker in getting decision-makers on your side when budget

Use Your People Counting Software to Identify Your 2016 Retail Foot Traffic Trends

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  2. 2016

foot traffic trendsWith the close of 2016 upon us, it’s a good time to take a critical look back at how your business performed over the past 12 months and uncover traffic trends that can help you identify opportunities in the year ahead. Your people counting software is a treasure trove of valuable data, brimming with actionable insights that you can apply to your store operations.

The Highlights

In reviewing your year-end data, what stands out as your peak traffic volume for all 12 months? Was it on Black Friday or maybe the days leading up to Mother’s Day? Or perhaps it was just a really successful promotional campaign you happened to run one weekend. Whatever the case, knowing your highlights can help you to replicate those great results going forward.

However, traffic numbers alone only tell half the story. Be sure to evaluate your people counts side-by-side with sales figures and other relevant data, as this will reveal your truly actionable traffic trends. What if, for example, your store got loads of traffic but the sales conversion rate doesn’t quite match up? This could point to a problem with staffing. Perhaps the store didn’t have enough associates on hand to assist customers, leading to lengthy checkout lines, abandoned carts and lost sales opportunities.

To properly right-size your store ops, crunch these numbers regularly — weekly or even daily, if it makes sense — to stay on top of your foot traffic trends and correct any stats that are sliding in the right direction.

Look to Negatives as an Opportunity to Improve

Now that you’ve identified your best traffic trends for 2016, take a look at the opposite: the periods when store visits dipped to the lowest numbers. Maybe it’s not pretty, but you can use this data as an opportunity to turn things around in 2017. Of course, some retail businesses are seasonal by nature or see predictable seasonal trends. Perhaps you can’t change that completely but you can take steps to improve traffic trends.

That could mean running a carefully crafted campaign to drive traffic when visits would otherwise be down to attract customers to your store. Or consider rewarding customers for shopping during off-peak times. This is an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box for ways to drum up traffic and turn your trends around.

Set a Strategy for 2017

Your sole goal for the moment may be trying to survive the hectic holiday season, but don’t miss this opportunity to be strategic about 2017. Instead of simply going along with “business as usual,” use the traffic trends you identified from your people counting software to rethink your operations and marketing efforts next year. Maybe you need to expand your workforce to enhance customer service and keep your conversion rates up. Or perhaps you need to run more promotional campaigns or switch up how displays appear in store for maximum impact.

Whatever the case, now’s the time to use your traffic data and analytical insights to run your store better and smarter in

Disruptive Technology: The Smartphone Wielding Customer Is Not the Enemy

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  2. 2016

shopper on phone disruptive technologyTake a look at the shoppers in your stores and you’ll note that many of them have one thing in common: their eyes are glued to their smartphones as they shop. This rise in “smartphone-savvy shoppers” has left many retailers shaking in their boots; the greatest fear is that these consumers are engaging in “showrooming,” using stores to scope out products and then using mobile phones to find the items at lower prices elsewhere.

But as recent studies have revealed, consumers and their disruptive technology don’t necessarily spell bad news for retailers. These smartphone-savvy shoppers actually use their phones for retail-friendly activities quite often: sure, 54 percent engage in price comparison, but 48 percent of the time, shoppers are pulling up product info, and 42 percent of the time, they are reading online reviews. A good number of smartphone-using shoppers turn to their devices to search for coupons and deals and look up store locations.

So what can you as a retailer do to use new disruptive technology to your — and your customer’s — advantage?

Level the Playing Field

If your customers have smartphones in hand — and the wealth of on-demand information they enable — then it’s a good idea for your store associates to be equipped with this kind of disruptive technology, too. But first, have you right-sized your staffing levels? Take a deep dive into traffic-counting data to determine the ideal customer-to-employee ratio.

Once you make any necessary staffing adjustments, enhance the customer service you provide by equipping employees with the disruptive technology, including tablets, mobile point of sale, and other solutions, needed to give shoppers what they want.

With disruptive technology in hand, your store staff can:

  • Offer cross-channel price matching. Load key store software onto devices so that workers can quickly access inventory and pricing and offer price-matching to “save the sale” when necessary. Ship out-of-stock products from another location to the customer’s home.
  • Access product information. With a quick scan of a QR or barcode, your staff can pull up detailed product info, helping the customer to make a more informed purchasing decision.

 

Bring More Tech Into Your Store

Retailers were once afraid that offering in-store Wi-Fi would open the floodgates of consumers looking at and trying on products, just to actually purchase them elsewhere. Now that that myth largely has been debunked, discover how you can use Wi-Fi to your benefit. Customers will appreciate being able to save on their mobile data in your stores, and you can use your Wi-Fi portal to capture some basic customer info, such as email addresses (with opt-in, of course).

If you want to take it a step further, take advantage of geolocation with Wi-Fi and beacons to push out relevant messages and offers to customers in or near your stores.

Hop Onto the Mobile Payments Bandwagon

Consumers use their phones for pretty much everything, and that includes payments. Embrace disruptive technology by incorporating mobile payment capabilities at your cash wrap.

If you’re upgrading your POS terminals to become EMV-compliant, be sure the new hardware can accommodate tap-to-pay near field communication (NFC) technologies that services such as Android Pay and Apple Pay use. NFC is growing in usage, especially among device-addicted millennials.

Are You Mobile-Friendly?

Virtually every retailer operates some sort of website or e-commerce site, but have you considered how your online experience translates to mobile? By creating a mobile-friendly web or app experience, you’ll encourage shoppers to engage with your brand instead of looking elsewhere. Don’t get left behind, especially as transactions on mobile continue to creep higher.

Disruptive technology can be your friend or foe. Investing in critical hardware and software upgrades will show smartphone-savvy shoppers that you’re committed to providing the best retail experience possible.

Why Make Your Employees Brand Ambassadors?

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  2. 2016

employee brand ambassadorsThese days when you hear the phrase “brand ambassador,” it’s usually referring to an influencer talking up your brand to the world on social media. But many businesses are realizing that some of their greatest brand ambassadors are actually within their own companies: engaged, enthusiastic employees.

According to a Gallup poll, companies with high employee engagement report 3.9 times the earnings per share than competitors. Engaged employees create a more stable workforce — staff are less likely to jump ship — freeing the enterprise to focus on strengthening its brand.

So how can you go about transforming your employees into brand ambassadors?

Encourage Communication and Participation

Workers may feel like just a cog in the wheel if they’re kept in the dark about important business decisions and other enterprise goings-on. What’s more, employees need to feel like their voices and concerns are being heard.

Consider launching an internal communications tool such as a blog on your intranet or a wiki (which also will show you’re staying abreast of tech trends!). These are helpful avenues to disseminate information quickly and simply and empower workers to share ideas, identify areas for improvement, and air feedback about new initiatives and imperatives. From the administrative assistant to C-suite executives, encourage all staff to participate in the company-wide conversation.

Share Knowledge

Thinking about making big changes to your products or services? Before making any moves, find out what your employees think. Soliciting their input will help employees feel valued and engaged.

For example, if you are considering renovating retail space, ask employees for their feedback on your ideas. Their insight from the “front lines” could help you avoid costly missteps and refine your vision in a way that truly strengthens your brand. Getting employee input will also help toward buy-in for projects, which will make launches and transitions go more smoothly.

Foster a Sense of Community

Sometimes companies run through team-building exercises almost as a formality, but events that bring your employees together for a central purpose really can unite workers under a common cause. Regularly organize activities such as volunteering or fundraising for charities that can encourage employees to feel more strongly connected to your corporate brand.

Pick Passionate People

It might be easy to hire just any warm body to run a checkout or sling boxes in the stock room, but only employing passionate people will reap dividends many times over. Whatever the job function, hire great talent — rising stars who are invested in taking your brand to the next level. It’s what makes Apple’s Genius Bar so successful and Nordstrom sales associates so effective. Brand ambassadors don’t just do their jobs; they bring your company to life.

Use Tech to Make Employees (and the Experience) Better

Don’t make the mistake of making technology the star. Tech is simply the tool to help your employees and your business achieve success. Side-by-side customer interactions remain the gold standard; tools such as mobile point of sale (POS), digital signage, and real-time inventory management solutions, facilitate and elevate the associate-to-customer conversation.

Technology also helps you manage your business in a way that empowers employees. People counting solutions, for example, provide data that helps you predict when more staff will be needed to adequately cover a shift and enable sales associates to provide the best customer service. Engineering schedules to help your team create exceptional customer experiences will also help create brand ambassadors who feel like they’re really contributing to the good of the enterprise.

Engaged employees, not just workers who go through the motions, become frontline warriors for your corporate brand. If you’re looking for ways to build your company from within, invest in these five strategies to turn rank-and-file workers into invested and passionate brand ambassadors.

How to Boost Sales with Suggestive Selling

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  2. 2016

boost sales with suggestive sellingSuggestive selling is one of retail’s greatest strategies. Shoppers are already through the doors, they found something they like or need, and suggestive selling gives you the opportunity to boost sales, increase ticket size, and encourage the shopper to walk away smiling with even more of your great products and services.

Are You Managing Labor Effectively?

Before you can implement a successful suggestive selling strategy, it’s important to have your store properly staffed. Nothing frustrates customers quite as much as wasting their valuable time waiting for assistance.

One way to ensure you have your store properly staffed, is to schedule employees according to the amount of foot traffic you’ve projected your store will receive. Installing people counters, sometimes called customer counters, is the best way to gather the data you need to make your customer foot traffic forecasts. Arming yourself with a solid understanding of when your business is its busiest and its slowest will help you adequately schedule staff and ensure customers are given the best service possible. When your customers feel appreciated and valued, they’ll be in a positive mood, setting the stage for suggestive selling.

Be Genuine When Offering to Help Customers

Let’s be honest — shoppers can spot a phony upsell a mile away. They know when your sales staff is just trying to earn a commission versus really trying to understand and serve customers. Instead of spouting off the same canned upselling and cross-selling lines, train your staff to listen to customers and determine exactly what they’re looking for and to customize suggestive selling approaches to individual shoppers. Your customers will appreciate your staff taking the time to truly serve them instead of just “phoning it in.”

Make Relevant Suggestions

One mistake retailers can make with suggestive selling is to push products or services that are of no interest to the intended consumer. Imagine the awkwardness of a sales associate recommending a buy-one-get-one deal on bath towels when the customer is only interested in new fashion arrivals. Relevant suggestive selling recommendations are more likely to be well received and to result in upsell. Store staff should pay attention to the kinds of items the shopper is already purchasing. For example, if she has a trendy new blouse in hand, she might want to know about a scarf or necklace that complements the top and completes the look. Or the customer buying the latest tablet PC likely will be receptive to hearing about useful peripherals and accessories, such as a printer, wireless keyboard or stand, which will help him get the most out of his cool new device. When suggestions are relevant, you open your customers’ minds to new possibilities while keeping the focus on helping them to have everything they need to be satisfied with their purchase. Customers get better, more comprehensive products and experiences — while you get bigger sales.

Are you getting the most out of your suggestive selling techniques? When your staff cross-sells and upsells efficiently, expect your sales to rise — and your customers to return for more great shopping experiences.

How Counting People Can Help with Your Program Funding Proposal

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  2. 2016

woman writing program funding proposalGetting your programs funded can seem like an uphill battle. Decision-makers have myriad proposals to review, and making your pitch stand out can be quite the challenge. But did you know that you can leverage people counting technology to benefit your program funding proposal? Learn how to make traffic counters work for you.

Highlight Your Past Successes
To grab a decision-maker’s attention, point to prior success when writing your program funding proposal. Review traffic counts from your last program or initiative to demonstrate strong attendance and connect the dots to indicate why similar future programs will draw substantial crowds. Everyone loves a good success story, so paint the reader a compelling picture of how you’ll replicate past successes going forward.

Gain an edge over the competition by doing the little things to stand out. Get your program funding proposal professionally edited (or ask a talented friend for help), write from the heart in concise, hard-hitting sentences to capture the emotion you want to convey, and look up proposals that actually got funded to see concrete examples of what works.

Is Your Growth Game Strong?
Win over your audience by showing them your organization is growing. Traffic counting technology can demonstrate an increase in your foot traffic over time, which can indicate a positive trend in your current programs’ success. Armed with people counting data, you can prove that your organization is moving in the right direction and urge decision-makers to continue the trajectory by greenlighting your program funding proposal.

Did your most recent library children’s reading group attract a record number of parents and kids? Did the special sculpture exhibition at your museum draw an historic crowd? Make your audience understand that you need their assistance to continue the exciting forward momentum.

Dollars and Sense: Set a Realistic Budget

Traffic counting data can give you a look inside the nuts and bolts of your daily operations. Use these numbers to take a hard look at what a practical budget might be for your future programs. What worked for you in the past can set a grounded roadmap for what you’re planning for the next go-around. A budget that’s firmly rooted in reality shows decision-makers that you’ve done your homework and crunched the numbers in your program funding proposal. The more down-to-earth and specific your proposal, the better the chance of funding programs “showing you the money.”

Settle on a Starting Point: Draft Goals You Can Achieve

In your program funding proposal, include traffic counting numbers from past programs or service to understand just how realistic are your goals for the new set of initiative you have in mind. For example, if your last campus guest lecture drew just a handful of attendees, you probably shouldn’t expect a massive turnout for the next special talk. Setting expectations is helpful for the decision-maker reviewing your program funding proposal. When you highlight previous people counts for your events, you show that your proposal isn’t simply a flight of fancy but is buttressed by solid numbers.

Following this advice, you can draft a proposal that convinces funding programs that your projects are worth their investment.

How to Lease Retail Space and Why People Counts Help

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  2. 2016

how to lease retail spaceWhen your business makes the decision to expand to new location, you want to maximize every dollar to grow your chain profitably. Merchants need to be savvy about how to lease retail space that nets them the best deals. Don’t overlook the value of people counting technology when you’re thinking about inking your next real estate lease.

First and Foremost: Know Your Budget
Many companies make the mistake of overspending on real estate because they think they simply must be in a certain location. The bottom line, though, is if you can’t afford it, it’s not worth it. When learning how to lease retail space, evaluate your current sales and income to determine what a practical real estate budget should be for your planned expansion. Traffic counts from existing locations can help project what foot traffic might be at the new store you’re envisioning.

Pick the Right Location
It’s a tried and true saying that your success boils down to location, location, location. Setting up shop in any given location can make or break your store so be careful to choose wisely.

This is where traffic counting technology is really a benefit. A key step in learning how to lease retail space is evaluating foot traffic numbers for the location you’re interested in. Be wary of landlords who hem and haw about sharing foot traffic data — it could be a sign that the location you are considering doesn’t draw the kind of crowds you’re hoping for.

Needs Versus Wants
Like Goldilocks, you want your new store not to be too big or too little — but just right. Take a good, hard look at what you really need, not what you want, to be successful in your new location. How much space is just enough? How much space is too much? Retailers that know how to lease retail space don’t sign up for more store than they need. What’s more, they understand the conditions that work for them: do they need a move-in ready four walls or do they need to build out the space to their custom specifications? Set your expectations early and stick to them throughout the leasing process. Be sure you can accommodate the various aspects of your store environment, such as stockroom, office, restrooms and fitting rooms.

Of Brokers and Negotiations
If you’re pressed for time or aren’t confident in how to lease retail space, consider partnering with a real estate broker who knows the ins and outs of the trade. Leverage their expertise to your advantage; they likely have years of experience in securing the best deals with the most retailer-friendly terms. Don’t forget, though, that brokers charge a fee, so factor that into your overall budget.

It should go without saying that you must negotiate your lease — or at the very least, try. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so counter any offers with the terms that top your priority list, such as:

  • The length of your lease. The longer the agreement, the lower your rent could be.
  • Paying up front. By prepaying your rent, you can make a good case for reducing your monthly rate.
  • Location near competitors. Potential landlords might be swayed when you demonstrate that the space they have available is (or isn’t) close to your competition.

Anyone can learn how to lease retail space successfully by doing careful research, leaning on hard numbers from traffic counting data, and seeking out seasoned partners such as real estate brokers who are motivated to get you the best possible deal.

A Simple Checklist for Attracting Customers to Your SMB Retail Store

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  2. 2016


how to attract customers conceptOne of the biggest challenges for small to medium-sized retail business (SMB) owners is attracting customers to your store. To increase sales, you need to get people in the door, keep them coming back, and inspire them to tell their friends about the great shopping experiences you provide. Tools such as a people counting solution will help you work toward these goals and determine the success of your efforts as well.

  1. Understand Your Business. Consider the things that make you stand out from your competition. Formalize your unique value proposition (UVP) into a statement you can share with your management team and employees. Examine your processes (such as hours of operation, staffing, products, and marketing) as they relate to your UVP and make an honest assessment of your strengths and the areas where you could improve. Looking at these things from your customers’ perspective will help you figure out how to improve the customer experiences you provide.
  2. Know Your Target Audience. Trying to attract “the general public” is too vague and ineffective. Create a detailed profile of your typical customer so you can craft marketing messages that will appeal to those demographics. Compile and update a database of customer information, including addresses, order histories, and loyalty rewards. This data can help you shape personalized email invitations to attract customers. Foot traffic statistics from your people counter will provide insights into peak times for typical buyers and the areas of the store that draw the most attention, to complete your customer profile.
  3. Set Yourself Apart with Outstanding Service. One thing that will always attract customers is exceptional service. People counting solutions can help you deliver great experiences. For example, with foot traffic data, you can ensure adequate staffing during the busiest times of the day, week, month, or year, to avoid lengthy checkout lines. You can also tell which parts of the store are visited most, so you can adequately staff them with associates to assist shoppers with queries or make upselling suggestions. Great service from knowledgeable and attentive employees can lead to customer loyalty.  
  4. Keep in Contact. In today’s retail environment, shoppers expect to interact with retailers in stores and online through social media, texts, and email. Make sure your customer engagement strategy includes appealing to them on all channels. Send emails and texts to thank loyal shoppers and offer coupons or information about upcoming sales or other in-store events such as new product demos. Never underestimate the power of social media. Engage with customers who reach out to you or mention you on social media.
  5. Offer Promotions. A common strategy to attract customers is to offer promotions both in stores and online. These could include not only special deals such as “buy one, get one free” but also codes that people can share with friends to earn rewards. To tell whether an in-store campaign is successful, check your people counter to see if foot traffic increases during and after the promotional period.

In a crowded and competitive retail environment, smart SMB owners use multiple strategies to attract customers, which include tools such as people counters. With the data these tools provide, you can tailor strategies to support your business goals and better evaluate the success of each initiative.