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.