How Libraries Can Leverage Data and Increase Patronage

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Libraries have come a long way toward shaking off their image as irrelevant institutions from a bygone era. Today’s libraries should adapt to the evolving needs of their communities by leverage data to improve their services and operations with even greater impact — and attract the visitors who sustain these institutions in the first place.

Use Data to Determine Your Community Demographics

What’s one simple mistake that organizations of all kinds make? Thinking you know your customers or patrons. It’s entirely possible that your library may know some of its demographics but even more likely that you’re missing the complete picture. Leverage data from many publicly available sources to “fill in the blanks” about the diversity of your patrons. You might start with these:

  • gov: Try comparing your patrons’ addresses with the addresses of the population area your library is in to see how much of the area you’re truly serving.
  • City or county government agencies: These groups typically manage a treasure trove of demographic and geographic data.

Take It to the People

Do you want to know what the patrons of your library want? Just ask them. There are many simple tools you can use to poll your patrons and community members to discover what, exactly, they want from you. Social platforms are especially useful for gathering feedback on the kinds of programs, activities and media your community wishes your library would offer. For example, if your library is in a predominantly retired community, you might want to shrink the young adults section in favor of titles that appeal to a more senior crowd. Or your social polling might reveal that your community of busy and tech-savvy young families wants to see more children’s literature added to your audiobook collection.

Leverage data from social polling and other direct-to-patrons methods to better align your library’s assets and activities with your community’s needs, which will aid in driving foot traffic through your doors and boosting your relevance among key constituents.

Data on Display(s)

How do you decide which books get the “front and center” treatment? There’s only so much room to promote a handful of titles so be sure to leverage data to ensure your book displays are achieving maximum impact. Technology such as people counters can help you discern which displays are drawing the most attention, and which are being largely overlooked.

From there, you can use the insights gained to inform future displays; for example, feature the same popular novelist whose mass paperback thrillers were a hit the last time around, or set up an eye-catching Harry Potter display including both the novels and films around Harry Potter’s birthday, July 31st.

Program Popularity

You labor diligently on planning your annual programs calendar. Keep that diligence going by leveraging objective data from people counters to get a handle on which of your programs are the stars. Because libraries typically operate under tight budgets, you can’t afford to spend precious dollars on poorly attended programs. Take action: for example, if a monthly program bombs for the first quarter of the calendar, replace it for the remainder of the year with something similar to an activity that attracts good attendance.

And in planning your cadence of programming, keep in mind that the programs that add value in our tech-first world may be different from successful programs of the past. Don’t be afraid of new ideas, especially if you’re leveraging data and researching other institutions’ successes to arrive at a modern new programs calendar.

If your library wants to increase patronage and community relevance, consider all of the ways that data can be your secret weapon in serving a new generation of library visitors.

How Retailers are Using Virtual Reality to Engage Customers In-Store

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If you think virtual reality is a passing fad designed for hipsters and Millennials, you might want to think again. Some prominent retailers are leveraging retail virtual reality to provide unique experiences and give customers a reason to visit the physical store. Once seen as a technology largely for video gamers, VR has shaken off that association and is now becoming accepted in many areas of our culture, utilized in environments such as movie theaters to amusement parks and now: the retail world.

Forging an Emotional Connection

Consider the example of TOMS, known for its “one to one” philosophy of giving a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair of footwear it sells. The company uses retail virtual reality as a compelling and novel way both to engage with customers and inspire them to stop by a store for an experience they can’t get anyone where else.

Two years ago, TOMS acquired Samsung virtual reality headsets for use in 100 stores, giving visitors the ability to immerse themselves in a 360-degree video of children at a Peruvian school receiving free shoes as part of TOMS’s one-for-one brand promise. In 2016 as TOMS commemorated its 10th anniversary, the brand approached AT&T, a longtime partner, to create a retail virtual reality video that followed one customer’s trip from California to Colombia to see firsthand the actual impact his TOMS shoe purchase had on a child.

“Virtual reality is the greatest technology I’ve seen to create empathy,” TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie told Co.Create.

That’s one of the greatest assets of retail virtual reality: forging a potent emotional connection by letting your customers truly experience what your brand is all about.

Stop Guessing, Start Visualizing

Home remodeling and renovations are big business, projected to total more than $154 billion for the year ending September 2016. It’s no wonder, then, that home improvement giant Lowe’s has invested in retail virtual reality as a way to improve the often complex and costly process of renovating your home.

Lowe’s retail virtual reality program is first and foremost practical and goes a long way toward solving a top customer challenge: visualizing precisely how a remodel or room refresh will truly look instead of just seeing a renovation piecemeal. Select Lowe’s stores include what’s called a Holoroom in which customers can use an Oculus Rift headset to experience a 3D visualization of the area they want to redo, complete with the precise room measurements they upload and the paints, fixtures, appliances and anything else they want to check out in the space. Shoppers can continue the experience at home as well using a Google Cardboard Viewer, distributed at no cost by Lowe’s, to view their virtual reality mockup on YouTube 360.

Enhance Branding and Customer Experiences In-Store and Outside of the Store

The North Face, an outdoor apparel and gear brand, sees retail virtual reality as a way to further strengthen its brand. Its virtual reality videos have featured classic outdoors activities and locations, such as rock climbing in Utah’s rugged Moab Desert and Yosemite National Park in California, as well as highlighting far flung locations such as Nepal. The coolest part? The North Face achieved the latter by giving consumers Google Cardboard viewers so they could see the Nepal video on their very own mobile devices wherever and whenever.

The takeaway here is that the retail virtual reality experience that you create doesn’t have to be confined to your four walls. But by keeping your brand in the front of the consumer’s mind with VR, you can encourage future trips to the store.

In sum, retail virtual reality aids retailers in “showing” instead of “telling.” It brings to life unique and memorable experiences that not only extend your brand and drum up footfall but also, as in the case of businesses like Lowe’s, boost conversion by erasing lingering concerns and doubts your shopper might have. Not simply a novelty, retail virtual reality today has emerged as a highly effective customer engagement tool for forward-thinking brands.

After you’ve stepped outside of reality and into the virtual world to drive traffic and engage your customers, it’s time to measure your results. Installing people counters, or upgrading your current counters to the latest technology is a cost effective and more importantly, accurate way to benchmark your efforts.  You’ll be able to quickly ascertain whether you have hit the mark or missed by a mile.

3 Limitations of Wifi/MDD Counters

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Retail tech is continuously evolving, and the battle for in-store tech and analytics is particularly fierce — especially as merchants struggle with challenges in foot traffic and changing shopper preferences and behavior. Still, many retailers are searching for the options that can give them the most “bang for their buck” when it comes to capturing footfall in store and leveraging associated data to improve the store experience. Beacons perhaps have grabbed the most attention in recent years but now the focus has shifted to WiFi counters and mobile device detection counters as cost-effective solutions to the problem of people counting.

But here’s the thing: while WiFi counters and mobile device detection counters certainly have their merits, these technologies have drawbacks, too. Do you always have WiFi and/or Bluetooth turned on on your smartphone? Maybe, maybe not. Multiply that across your store visitors and you start to see just how limited a sample of WiFi users might truly be. Backing up one step, consider that not all of your shoppers even have a smartphone in the first place. Or maybe they forgot it at home or left it in the car or maybe the WiFi on their phone stopped working and they have to take it to the wireless store to get it fixed. Or maybe their battery is low so they have to turn off all non-essential functionalities, which might include Bluetooth and Wifi, so the phone doesn’t shut down before they can plug in again. Or maybe they have older models of smartphones with wonky WiFi that your retail systems can’t reliably connect to and track.

The point is that WiFi counting systems are predicated on a whole lot of “what ifs.”

There’s a way to get the most out of mobile device detection counters and WiFi counters, though. The best approach? Use  them alongside other robust systems such as traditional, proven people-counting technologies: video counters or thermal overhead counters, just to name two.

Leveraged in tandem, a people counter will yield valuable data about when a shopper enters and exits your store, while mobile device detection counters can detail even more granular information on the shopper’s visit (provided that the customer’s Bluetooth and/or WiFi is activated, of course), such as the amount of time the customer lingers and how often the shopper comes to your store. This can help you to optimize marketing so that you target your frequent-flyer customers with appropriate VIP offers and incentivize occasional shoppers to increase their store visits — and spend. It can also reveal underperforming areas of your store that might benefit from reorganization or improved promotional displays.

A people counter also is needed to fill in the other nuts-and-bolts gaps that WiFi counters and mobile device detection counters leave void. People counting is irreplaceable for providing the data you need to efficiently schedule your staff so that labor is right-sized according to demand: too many workers on a slow day equals wasted dollars while too few during busy period could equal lost sales. It’s also the best source of information that, paired with POS data, helps you identify the key performance indicators that benchmark your business performance and reveal opportunities for improvement.

Deploying WiFi counters or mobile device detection counters alongside people-counting platforms truly unlocks the power and potential of each individual system —and drives home the notion of “better together.” Such future-forward store technologies must be incorporated thoughtfully within your existing technology stack in order to provide the greatest value for your business and for customers.

Why Online E-tailers Investigate Brick-and-Mortar Opportunity with Pop-Up Shop Foot Traffic Data

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Every day it seems like yet another pure-play e-commerce brand announces it’s planning a pop-up shop, a temporary, limited-time store that’s either a standalone or located within an existing retailer. Given the lower costs of operating online only, why are e-tailers so interested in exploring brick-and-mortar opportunities, which come with expensive leases and other substantial operational costs?

A Real-Life Laboratory

Pop-up shops are attractive because they’re the ultimate real-life laboratory. In the past, if a brand wanted to open a store, they would do some due diligence, such as investigating area demographics and identifying similar or complementary businesses nearby, to come up with an educated guess as to the “best location” for a new location.

Pop-up shops allow brands and retailers to experiment with new locations and glean real-time, real-world data and insights prior to committing to a lengthy (and costly) lease. Using traffic counters at pop-up shops to analyze footfall and to see if the location is attracting a desirable level of consumer interest is a strategic way to quantify the success of the location. If it’s not performing as expected based on the traffic data, it’s easy for the brand or retailer to pivot and perhaps try a new location or tweak the shop layout to entice more visitors.

People counters also can help identify reasons why shoppers aren’t converting at expected rates. Are consumers stopping by the pop-up simply out of curiosity? Or maybe you’re not showcasing the right assortment of products. Regardless, people counters installed in pop-up shops provide the raw data needed to understand what’s working and what’s not in your temporary store.

Connecting With Consumers

There’s another important reason why so many e-commerce brands are interested in exploring pop-up shops. While online shopping wins for convenience and usually price, nothing beats brick-and-mortar as the best channel for establishing intimate customer relationships. Shoppers still like to hold products, try on garments or smell the scent of a candle prior to purchase, especially when it’s an unfamiliar brand.

To make the most of the pop-up shop experience, brands and retailers should invest in training their sales associates. Putting your brand in front of consumers for the first time is an invaluable opportunity — one you can’t afford to squander. Passionate, motivated shop employees persuade shoppers to buy and not just browse.

For example, Eloquii, an online-only plus-size women’s fashion brand, turned its D.C. area pop-up into a permanent store at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in June after an enthusiastic customer response to its original three-month pop-up run. The company staffed the shop with some of its most engaged customers from the area who were eager to be more closely involved with the brand, which translated into a great store experience for shoppers who visited the location.

Consider the halo effect that can come with a pop-up, too. Customers may snap photos in your shop and share them on social media, helping to spread the word about your temporary location and increase brand awareness. How’s that for free marketing?

Pop-up shops are an important tool for e-tailers looking to expand into brick-and-mortar. Coupled with people counters, pop-ups can provide the necessary data to determine if a permanent store is right for your brand.

 

 

How Retailers Can Do More with Real-Time Insight from Foot Traffic Data

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Big data is influencing retail operations from forecasting and price optimization to how much hand soap to stock for the restrooms. Today’s people counting technology provides unprecedented real-time insight into every area of operations including foot traffic.

Foot traffic metrics have always been important to brick-and-mortar merchants but now, with the assistance of people counters, it’s easier to analyze and, more importantly, to make business decisions based on this information.  While the business applications for in-store traffic data is nearly limitless, here are just a few of the ways retailers can do more with the data collected.

Identify Prime Real Estate

Let’s say you have an idea for a fantastic promotional display. Where are you going to put it? You can guess where to locate the display within your store or you can use real-time insights from foot traffic data provided by people counters to pinpoint the optimal floor placement.

Once installed, some retailers conduct what is known as A/B testing. A/B testing pits two options against one another and uses data to determine the winning candidate. You can use this process to further identify which displays perform the best and result in the most sales.

This usually looks like setting up a display in a location for a week and then moving it to another position and comparing the numbers. This will either confirm your assumptions or challenge your preconceived notions on what works. Either way, you win.

Tweak Your Store Layout

It’s your job to guide customers through your space and to entice them to linger and ultimately to buy. The main function of the flow and design of your store is to maximize sales for each square foot of space. Real-time insight into traffic allows you to tweak and refine the layout until you have the optimal layout.

You also want to keep the traffic moving and avoid bottlenecks and tight spaces. Analyze your traffic flow to see if problem areas exist. Know the patterns created by fixture positions and aisles configurations and consider whether you need to make improvements. Small adjustments can result in more revenue.

Look for Ways to Boost Traffic

Ideally once you know your baseline traffic numbers on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, you want to start identifying opportunities for improvement and brainstorming ideas to boost traffic. Time contingent promotions (like door busters) drive customers into your store during off hours. Special events can be strategically scheduled during lulls as well.

In addition to traffic boosting initiatives, use real-time insight from people counters for scheduling purposes. Many retailers find this information is an asset to keeping labor costs in check. Knowing busy periods and slow periods keeps you from over or under staffing.

Real-Time Insights Give Real Results

More and more retailers are going beyond the simple how-many-people-walk-through-the-door count and using foot traffic data to determine the success of a promotion or as leverage for making a business case to upper management for store layout changes. Knowing your foot traffic numbers using a people counter can even result in a boost in traffic if applied to business decisions.

3 Ways Thermal Imaging People Counters Can Improve Your Foot Traffic Insights

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Thermal imaging people counters are one of the most accurate methods available on the market for collecting foot traffic data. They’re also becoming one of the most popular methods because of their accuracy and versatility. Thermal imaging people counters use sensors to detect infrared radiation given off by people, which allows them to be undaunted by bad lighting conditions, shadows or high volumes of people to achieve a 98% accuracy rate.

The many ways that foot traffic data can benefit your business, regardless of whether you are a retailer, casino, library, or university, makes it even more important for you to have accurate counts. You can use the insights from this data in three main ways:

  1. Allowing You to Customize Zones and Sensitivity

Thermal imaging people counters are great options for buildings with exceptionally wide, awkward or irregular entranceways because you can customize the count zone to adapt to your specific entrance configuration and size. Units are mounted on the ceiling in a discreet and unobtrusive tamper-proof enclosure and allow you to position them strategically to capture your target count area.

The ability to set sensitivity levels is especially useful for counting groups of people that include children. Traditional people counters only have about a 70 percent accuracy in detecting children, while thermal imaging can increase the accuracy rate to as high as 95 percent. You can also tweak the way a thermal imaging people counter detects people according to the way they are walking into or out of the zone.

  1. Providing Accuracy Regardless of Conditions

One of the main reasons that businesses choose a thermal imaging people counter is that it performs reliably regardless of external conditions. Some solutions have diminished accuracy as lighting or weather conditions change. Thermal imaging functions the same regardless of ambient light, darkness or bright light. Also, counts aren’t affected by the presence or rain or snow and they can be used in all climates from the coldest to the most arid. Since thermal imaging people counters purely measure the heat given off by bodies passing through its field of vision, neither high traffic volumes nor background movement or shadows interfere with the sensors.

  1. Increasing the Detection Area

For buildings with wide entrances or public spaces that have a large area that needs to be monitored a thermal imaging people counter is ideal. It can give you up to a 30 percent increase in coverage area over other people counting technologies.

Other technologies have a static and finite range while thermal imaging units can often be networked to create a coverage area up to 118 feet wide. They can also be mounted on low ceilings, as low as seven feet high for the minimum, though it does decrease the width of the coverage area when mounted at that height.

Thermal Imaging People Counters Fuels Analytics
Measuring foot traffic affects many areas of your operations from budgeting to inventory and forecasting. Analyzing traffic data helps you make smarter decisions when it comes to scheduling staff, purchasing supplies, or ordering merchandise. You will only benefit from a more accurate count of the traffic you are experiencing.

If you want to take it up a notch, some businesses and non-profits opt for a thermal imaging solution combined with video detection. This makes it easier to differentiate between adults and children and offers absolute verification capability provided by a live, real-time video feed.

Even on its own though, a thermal imaging people counter can substantially improve your foot traffic insights. Its highly accurate counting technology, its ability to function even in adverse weather and lighting conditions and the increase to your counting field of vision by nearly a third make it an option many business owners and building managers turn to for measuring foot traffic at their facility.

How to Analyze Customer Movement with a People Counting System

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People counting systems are doing for customer movement analyzation what smartphones did for communication. It’s a game changer that will revolutionize the way you currently look at your traffic flow, traffic trends and conversion rates.

Data is invaluable in the business decision-making process. Simple metrics like the amount of people who walk through your door each day, use your restroom facilities, or visit a specific area of your space can give you insight into fundamental business questions like:

  • How many employees do I need to schedule for a shift?
  • What are my security needs throughout the day?
  • At what time should I restock and check restrooms?
  • When is the optimal time to perform routine maintenance?
  • Where should I set up new displays?
  • What time can I turn down the heating or air conditioning?

Being able to accurately plan and predict the answers to those types of questions ultimately translates into tangible cost savings by eliminating overspending, overstaffing, or over allocating resources.

Identify Traffic Flow
The first step in determining customer movement within your building is to understand how traffic flows in and out. Use a people counter to monitor entrances and exits to start piecing together your traffic flow map and identify your most frequently used and least used doorways.

Perhaps you have a pretty good idea of where heavily trafficked areas are inside your stores but using a strategically placed people counter will give you concrete data to back up, or perhaps blow up, your theory. You may find the new display you thought was driving traffic, really isn’t performing like you imagined giving you the opportunity to make tweaks or rearrange.

Track Traffic Volume Trends
Once you get a baseline for measuring traffic flow you can begin analyzing customer movement trends. People counters not only measure volume but can identify slow traffic times and heavy periods by hour, day, week, month and year through reporting and analytics.

Plan staffing and anticipate inventory stock to accommodate for busy periods and plan extra promotions or events to drive traffic during seasonal slow downs. You can even use the data to perform A/B testing to determine customer responses through increases or decreases in traffic volume.

Calculate Your Conversion Ratio
Compare foot traffic data from a specified period of time to POS sales data to calculate your conversion ratio. This will help you quantify how many people you are converting from browsers to buyers.

Ultimately it is about ROI. You don’t want to waste time and resources on displays that don’t drive sales. When setting up new displays, use a people counter to measure how many people entered the new display compared to the sales figures for the product displayed.

Knowing your conversion ratio with the help of a people counter gives managers and owners visibility into the most efficient and profitable displays. Conversion ratio data can also be used to:

  • Offer sales incentives to employees to get your conversion ratio up.
  • Pinpoint time periods when conversions rates drop and take steps to address downturns.
  • Determine your return on investment (ROI) for an event, promotion, or special program.

Customer Movement Data Benefits are Invaluable
Not using a people counting system to analyze traffic flow and volume is a little like using an abacus to do math. It can be done, but why would you want to?

Not to mention, the best benefits of people counting increase over time over time as you accumulate layers of data over weeks, months and years to identify high level variables in your traffic patterns. If used well, insight into historical customer movement data is going to ultimately affect both sides of your balance sheet by decreasing expenses and increasing revenue.

 

The Connection Between Library Programming and Counting People

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A library is all about books but library programming is all about people. Even though libraries are viewed as a valuable community resource, they are increasingly asked to justify operating budgets and prove that the public is engaged with the programs the library offers.

This puts pressure on libraries to offer high quality and highly successful programming. The best way to choose the best programs for your library, to justify budgets and to show that your programming is working is to measure the number of people participating.

Counting People is Worth the Effort

This requires a library-wide effort to constantly count the number of patrons at any given moment, at any given program. Many libraries tackle this manually, using volunteers and employees as human tally sheets leaving room for errors and inaccurate counts.

More and more libraries, however, are turning to digital people counters for a more accurate and infinitely easier way to get the data needed to aid in library programming decisions and to improve existing programming.

Imagine accurate attendance reports, concrete funding proposals, improved maintenance and security. All a result of simply counting people.

Annual Programming Attendance Reports

Utilizing a people counter to measure attendance for annual programs is one of the main ways libraries use the systems for data collection. Accurate people counts determine not just the success of a program but also gives a baseline to measure future success.

Aggregating historic data over time is going to result in an accurate picture, rather than an assumption, about your library programming and whether you are attracting the community to your library.

Project and Program Funding Proposals

Funding proposals for library programming are mere guesses without precise figures to back up requests. Having better data is going to result in better funding requests when you can illustrate the effectiveness of a specific program and justify budgetary needs.

Having a people counter in place takes the burden off your library staff to provide the numbers you need. The data is already there, ready to be analyzed and included in the budget when you need it.

Facility Maintenance

Taking the guess work out of supply ordering and restocking sounds ideal, doesn’t it? While facility maintenance is a facet of the library operations that is often a reactive effort, people counting can actually put you in a position to be proactive about maintaining your facilities.

A people counter placed at restroom entrances allows you to monitor activity and to plan accordingly. It even gives you insight into the most strategic points in the day to restock and clean with minimal interference to visitors while always having enough TP and soap in stock for busier times and big events.

Facility Security

You may not have thought of this but people counters positioned at exits can make your library more secure. Knowing roughly how many visitors are in the library at any given time gives you framework for scheduling security guards.

Determine when security needs are minimal like during the weekdays when it’s quiet to reduce man power and plan for added security to handle the increased volume during weekends or special programs when visitors increase.

Counting People Arms You With Knowledge

Do you have an accurate count for how many people attended your last event or how many people walked through your doors yesterday? Consider what you would do with the information if you had it. It could make the world of a difference in making informed decisions for your library programming, when asking for funding, and maintaining and securing your facility.

Prevent Budget Cuts

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.

Buy a People Counter for Your Library

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