If you own or manage a retail store, you probably already know that your store’s interior design and layout directly impact your customers’ purchases. For example, strategically placing products in some regions of the store can keep shoppers in the store longer, increasing their chance of finding more products to buy. Ultimately, optimizing your retail space is important because you can influence buyer behavior.
This article highlights how you can improve retail space optimization with people counters in your store. Whether you’re looking for solutions for boutique or shopping mall space optimization, read the following suggestions for the best ways to improve the interior of your retail space.
Common Store Layout Strategies
Optimizing store layout involves aspects like designing your floor space and strategically placing your products in your store to positively influence a customer’s behavior. It turns out that design is the biggest environmental factor that impacts a customer’s approach to your store. Alternatively, an important aspect that can influence store layout is customer flow — the pattern in which customers move around your store. Combining an understanding of these aspects allows you to create a strategy for your store that helps you become more profitable.
Most stores generally use one of four layouts:
Grid: Most commonly used in grocery stores, a grid layout arranges shelves in long rows, guiding customers up and down each aisle. This layout is successful because store owners can place commonly-shopped-for items in the back of the store. This technique makes shoppers looking for necessities walk down one or more aisles, creating a higher chance they’ll see — and buy — something else they might have wanted or forgot they needed.
Loop: The loop layout is exactly what it sounds like — one central aisle that loops around the entire store like a racetrack, leading the customer back to the entrance.
Spine: With a spine floor plan, your store has one central aisle that flows from the front of the store to the back of the store, with branches breaking out into various departments.
Free-flowing: The free-flowing layout features merchandise, displays and fixtures grouped together to make up a seemingly random layout. Popular among small businesses, this floor plan emphasizes open space and allows customers to wander around the store and find items that pique their interest.
Understanding how the layout of your products and the way your customers flow through your store is key to turning a profit. Choose a layout that will make sense for your store and will show your customers you had them in mind when designing it.
What’s the Decompression Zone?
The decompression zone of your store is the first few feet inside the door, where customers adjust to their surroundings and prepare for what your store may have to offer. Creating an effective decompression zone is essential because customers may leave if they feel overwhelmed as soon as they enter your store.
Here are a few tips to make the entrance of your store feel welcoming:
Open, clutter-free space: Keeping your decompression zone clutter-free provides a vast space for customers to enter your store. Also, note that keeping this space open will help the traffic flow coming in and out of the store if you only have one entrance and exit.
Featured products: Displaying products you want customers to buy around the decompression zone can impact sales. Of course, you should keep the displays tasteful and straightforward, so your customers feel enticed to explore your products.
Create an aesthetic: Since the decompression zone of the store is the first space potential customers will see, it’s your chance to impress them with your store’s unique style and aesthetic. Decorating using eye-catching displays can draw your customers into the space.
The Importance of Facilities Maintenance
Maintaining your retail facility to stay in optimal condition will positively influence your customers’ experience. Facility maintenance is another factor that can directly benefit from understanding the customer flow through your store and where the high-traffic areas are located. When you understand which places your customers frequent the most, you can ensure you keep these areas especially clean.
For example, you should maintain spaces like bathrooms or main aisles to keep up a good appearance. When you’re completing maintenance tasks, try to do so after hours so your customer can shop uninterrupted. Preventative maintenance on building systems, like heating and lighting, is also crucial so you can avoid surprise issues. When you implement maintenance checks, you can deliver a clean, comfortable and consistent shopping experience for your customers while creating more time for yourself to devote to retail space optimization.
How to Use Data From People Counters
In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of people counters in retail stores, they’re sensors that collect and monitor data, like how many people enter your store, how long they stay and how many of your visitors turn into buyers. They can be especially helpful in determining high-traffic areas of your store.
You can use the data from people counters to do the following:
Analyze traffic flow: As we stated earlier, understanding the way customers flow through your store is vital in deciding how you should display your products. Knowing which way your customers tend to walk out of the decompression zone can help you determine where to place certain products to increase profits. You can use the data from people counters around your store to determine if the layout of your store is successful.
Assess high-traffic areas: People counters can also help you assess your high-traffic areas. Understanding the location of these areas can be beneficial to you because you can place products you want to highlight in the heavily visited areas of your store.
Determine busy and slow times: Using people counting data to determine the slowest and busiest times of the day and week can help you schedule maintenance or additional staff members in a way that’s most beneficial for your space.
Contact Traf-Sys for a Free Quote for Your Retail Business
If you’re looking for the best ways to optimize your retail space, consider implementing people counting systems around your store. Analyze the data to help you make effective decisions about store layout and when the best times are for maintenance or more staff members to be present. At Traf-Sys, we pride ourselves in offering accurate people counting systems to a variety of businesses, and yours could be one of them.
People counting technology empowers businesses across industries to make better decisions. When you understand how many people visit on different days, you can optimize everything from your staffing to your energy usage. Learn whether your visitors are making purchases or just browsing. See if your latest promotions bring more people in the door. Find out which entrances get the most traffic, and get many more valuable insights.
If you’re new to people counting, you may have many questions about the benefits and uses of people counters, alongside the options available. We’ve put together this people counter resource guide to help you get started.
Determine Your People Counting Needs
You might use people counters for many purposes. They offer actionable data for many industries. Depending on your goals, you may need different hardware or software included in your people counting system. To narrow down your options and figure out how to choose a people counter, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I Need to Optimize Staffing?
An overview of your usual traffic density can help you plan your staff schedules more effectively. Knowing when your daily rushes and slow times fall and the days or months when you get the most customers can help you schedule the correct number of employees for every shift. As you watch your average visitor count grow over time, you’ll know when it’s time to hire new team members. A people counting system with real-time or hourly data offers the best solution.
2. Do I Need to Optimize Space Utilization?
Some businesses use their people counters to determine how many people visit each day. Others need to know which rooms or areas get lots of traffic and which ones aren’t attracting enough visitors. Facilities managers may want to track heavily-used rooms to plan maintenance activities, conserve energy or maximize space usage. Here, you may need linked visitor counters to track occupancy at various buildings across your property or to compare traffic at separate entrances and rooms within a single building.
This data can tell workplaces and universities whether they have the room to hire more team members or admit more students. It also reveals whether a facility needs more of a particular type of space, such as an extra meeting room.
Real-time occupancy data is also becoming increasingly crucial for space utilization. For example, offices may need to limit meeting rooms to 10 or fewer employees at a time.
Real-time data can also enhance facilities management. It can link to an HVAC and Building Management System, saving energy by heating and cooling parts of the building based on whether they’re occupied. It can also integrate with a room booking system. This information tells employees in real-time if the space they need is free and whether or not the current occupants reserved it.
If this real-time occupancy data is important for your facility, you’ll need a Time of Flight people counter, like the Vector 4D sensor, and real-time occupancy monitoring software.
3. What Marketing Metrics Do I Want to Look At?
Businesses that count their customers need to look at a few different metrics. Retail stores in particular use people counters to measure their conversion rates. Looking at your total visitors compared to your total transactions lets you understand your store’s conversion rates. Other businesses want to track foot traffic to gauge marketing success. Are specific promotions getting more people in the door? Think about the marketing metrics you’re most interested in as you evaluate software interfaces and reporting capabilities.
4. Do I Need Data Daily, Hourly or in Real Time?
Some businesses are best off with a simple daily count. If you’re not too concerned with your daily peaks and off-times, straightforward hardware should cover your needs. If you need hourly totals, a more accurate directional or overhead counter is essential. Monitoring current occupancy requires software for real-time tracking.
5. What Degree of Accuracy Do I Need?
Most businesses prefer the precision and accuracy of overhead people counters. These counters provide more accurate counts by distinguishing between people and shopping carts. Wide entrances, where many people pass through at once, require an overhead setup so visitors can’t go undetected. Sophisticated systems can even distinguish between children and adult visitors.
6. Do I Have the Capacity for Wired or Wireless Solutions?
A wired people counting system relies on a standard 110V power outlet. Many businesses prefer a wired option, so they don’t have to worry about replacing the batteries. However, a plug-in people counter costs a bit more. A more affordable wireless solution can use a battery or Power over Ethernet.
Choosing the Right People Counter for Your Industry
Every industry has slightly different needs from its people counting systems. Everything from the layout to the doorway width used in particular businesses can affect people counter hardware selection.
Grocery stores, retail chains and independent shops can use people counters to analyze their daily traffic. Using a traffic counter gives you unique insights. It can give you a conversion rate, letting you know how many visitors make it to the checkout. Retailers can also use people counters to understand their rushes and slow periods or to manage occupancy.
Top people counter solutions for retailers include:
The SafeEntry Occupancy Monitoring system
Gazelle Series People Counter
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Eclipse Video Sensor
2. Shopping Centers
Shopping centers need to track building-wide traffic for real-estate insights. They can charge higher rent and attract new tenants if they have data showing that the mall as a whole or a particular entrance sees many visitors each day. Shopping centers have many entrances, which are usually wider than a standard doorway. They need overhead people counting solutions such as:
The SafeEntry Occupancy Monitoring system
Eclipse Video Sensor
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Libraries provide a vital public service, offering books, internet access, technology and programming to their communities. Since they are publicly funded, they need to understand how the community uses their services. A library can use people counter data to understand circulation, support funding requests or track attendance at events.
For libraries, we recommend hardware such as:
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Eclipse Video Sensor
Since casinos don’t ticket their visitors, people counters are the most reliable way to understand their traffic patterns. Casinos can use people counters to optimize staffing and security personnel and see which areas of the resort attract the most visitors.
Casinos generally have wide doorways and dim lighting conditions. Their traffic counters must prioritize accuracy. Our Casino customers prefer hardware such as:
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Many museums don’t require tickets or offer free entry to students. People counters help museums understand who is walking through their doors. They can also install them throughout their exhibit entries to get a picture of which rooms have the biggest draw.
Museums can benefit from many types of people counting hardware, including:
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Eclipse Video Sensor
6. University Campuses
College campuses have many amenities and buildings with unique traffic patterns. Besides classrooms, they also feature dorms and dining halls, event venues, meeting spaces, laboratories and more. Each building sees different usage. Busy times ebb and flow throughout the day. With people counting data, university facilities managers see when and where students and visitors congregate to manage their buildings better. They can help universities plan their spaces to be most accessible to their users and track attendance at events.
Depending on their needs, universities can use people counters such as:
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Eclipse Video Sensor
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
7. Offices and Commercial Buildings
Commercial spaces can use people counters to aid space utilization. They can find the best layouts and place amenities where people will use them. They can identify when they need more space and better manage maintenance operations by linking their people counting data to HVAC controls. Real-time occupancy trackers can also help offices follow social distancing protocols.
Hospital facilities managers can choose from people counters such as:
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter
Gazelle Series Thermal People Counter
Eclipse Video Sensor
When people visit the bank or ATM, they want to get in and out as soon as possible. Banks need to move lines quickly and have enough staff to handle their expected busy periods. They can also use people counters to compare performance across branches and measure marketing effectiveness. Real-time occupancy tracking can help banks identify areas where people congregate so they can adjust layouts as needed.
People counting sensors break down into overhead and horizontal devices. Each type offers unique advantages and several hardware models to choose from. This people counter guide breaks down the two options available.
1. Overhead People Counting Devices
Overhead people counters mount to the ceiling in front of the entrance. In general, overhead counters are more reliable because they can distinguish moving objects as separate entities. Some are sophisticated enough to discount shopping carts and identify children. The available models include:
Eclipse Video Sensor: Video sensors are excellent at accommodating temperature changes and most retail lighting conditions. Video sensors also offer broader coverage, which is ideal for double-wide entrances. The Eclipse Video Sensor offers decent reliability for an affordable price. Each unit includes a single lens.
Spectrum Series 3D People Counter Video Sensors: Spectrum video sensors use two lenses. They have excellent depth perception, similar to human vision. The extra lens gives these units incredible accuracy. Within the Spectrum series, choose from the standard indoor model, the outdoor model and the high-mount model that can reach up to 29.5 feet.
Gazelle Series Thermal Imaging People Counters: Thermal sensors detect body heat and don’t require light. This feature makes them ideal for low-light environments. The Gazelle DualView combines a thermal imager and video sensor, automatically verifying its own counts. The Gazelle IP is a standalone thermal sensor. It can be used in sensitive environments where video recording is not an option, like public restrooms.
2. Horizontal People Counting Devices
Horizontal people counters project a laser beam across your entryway. Whenever someone passes through, they break the beam, registering that someone has entered or exited. They’re more affordable than overhead sensors but less accurate. If two people pass through the beam at once, only one may get counted. Still, they offer sufficient accuracy for many applications and businesses that need a low-cost solution.
Horizontal people counters come in several models, each offering distinct advantages. They include:
Z-900 Unidirectional: The Z-900 can cover up to 20 feet of entryway. It can count traffic without any additional software, transmitting its data up to 500 feet. Since it only uses one beam, it cannot tell what direction someone is walking. To total your traffic, take the Z-900’s daily number and divide it in two.
OmniCounter: The OmniCounter uses two beams to count traffic. It senses whether someone is coming or going by which beam breaks first. By measuring directional traffic, it can give you accurate counts throughout the day. It can cover a doorway up to 16 feet wide.
Z-WiFi: The Z-WiFi connects to your WiFi to offer a wireless counting solution. Like the Z-900, its beam can reach up to 20 feet.
What’s the Next Step?
Whether you’ve decided that a people counter is right for you or are still on the fence, we have plenty of resources to help you make an informed decision. Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Learn More With Our eBook Library
People counters can serve many purposes to many functions of your business. Your marketing department may use them to track how their campaigns and promotions influence foot traffic, and your facilities managers can use them to save energy throughout your building and allocate resources appropriately. Your managers can use them to schedule more staff on busy days or during peak hours, and your security team can use them to place security personnel where they’re needed most.
So many roles and departments can benefit from a people counter. Learning how it can benefit many departments can help you justify the investment and get everyone on board with the new technology. Besides the many uses for people counters for your business, they serve unique purposes for various industries. Check out our people counting eBook library to learn more about the general business and industry-specific benefits of visitor counters.
2. Weigh Your Hardware Options
At Traf-Sys, we offer many hardware options to cater to many different business needs, entry layouts and counting conditions. Explore our product pages to get an in-depth look at what each sensor provides.
Some people counters require no software to give you raw visitor data. To get the most out of your data, we recommend pairing your hardware with the VisiCount software. It provides deeper analysis and custom reporting. Compare two periods or the traffic patterns at separate entrances. Link it with other data like sales and staffing to get more marketing and scheduling insights.
If you need real-time occupancy tracking, consider the SafeEntry occupancy monitoring system. This software integrates with your people counters to give you real-time data on your current occupancy. You can set custom thresholds and see how many people it’s safe to admit at any given time.
4. Answer Your Remaining Questions
Still have questions about people counting systems? Visit our frequently asked questions page. There, we answer questions related to battery life, the different types and uses of people counters, and how they work.
What Sets Traf-Sys Apart
Traf-Sys has installed people counting systems for more than 17,000 locations. Our software and support have helped businesses from retail shopping centers, commercial buildings and universities to museums, casinos and libraries understand their visitors by the numbers.
We set ourselves apart with benefits such as the following:
1. Support You Can Count On
Our customer care team and level of support are top-notch. Our support specialists average 10 years or more of experience. We believe careful installation is the key to long-lasting operation and accuracy. That’s why our installation team tailors each job to the environment and your goals. We aim our sensors for maximum coverage and can complete installation with minimal disruptions to your business.
Every building and industry has different needs. Different doorway widths and numbers of entrances require a thoughtful approach. When installing new technologies, buildings with historical significance and other sensitive environments need special considerations. Meanwhile, different industries use their people counting systems for various purposes. Some industries need data to plan their facilities and staffing schedules. Others need to track marketing campaign success.
We specialize in highly custom installations. We can count the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City among our satisfied clients with challenging people counting environments. We’ve also installed people counters for independently owned Harley Davidson dealerships around the country. For this job, we designed a system that accommodates each dealership’s unique layout, architecture and IT system.
3. Experience and Knowledge
With nearly 20 years of service, our company is a trusted people counting system provider. We have the experience and knowledge to complete your project well. Throughout our company’s history, we’ve continued introducing new technologies that solve today’s challenges.
4. Easy-to-Use Software
Our software is flexible and easy to integrate into your existing systems. Because it’s web-based, you never need to update it. Pull custom reports, look at an overview of your locations or dive into the details at a single site with ease. We offer two software solutions to solve your company’s needs. First, VisiCount analyzes your visitor data, turning raw numbers into visual graphs and custom reports.
If you need real-time occupancy tracking, consider our SafeEntry occupant monitoring software. This tool lets you set custom occupancy thresholds while displaying real-time data for your employees or customers to see. It can also push real-time alerts for in-the-moment decision-making.
5. Advice to Get the Most Out of Your People Counting System
If you’re new to people counting, it helps to have an expert in your corner. With 20 years in the business and clients spanning many industries, we can help you make sense of your data. First, we can help you determine what system you need. Once your installation is complete, we can advise you on how to put your data into action. Start using your people counting data to improve revenue and profits while reducing costs.
Contact Traf-Sys Today
If you have any more questions or are ready to move forward with a people counting system for your business, contact the Traf-Sys team today. We’re happy to tell you more about our products, offer advice and suggestions and provide you with a free quote.
The 2020 holiday shopping season is here, and it’s unlike any other. Mindful preparation is essential for the health and safety of your employees and customers. This year has prompted many shoppers to consider what matters to them, opting for smaller, intimate gatherings and sentimental gifts over exorbitant purchases. They are eager to shop at establishments with similar values. One holiday shopping survey shows 57% of consumers feel more inspired to shop with a business that has supported staff and customers during the COVID-19 crisis. The same study reports that more than 60% of consumers plan to minimize in-store shopping, citing their concern for retail workers as a leading cause.
Though in-store crowds will likely be smaller and more staggered, there are steps you can take to optimize the shopping experience in a way that encourages social distancing and safe practices while still promoting your products. Here are six steps for safer holiday shopping during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following all recommended and required health and safety guidelines are the most essential step your business can take this holiday season. To make it easier, consider selecting a COVID-19 officer who can identify critical areas and facilitate changes. Your COVID-19 officer will also be in charge of communicating all relevant workplace adjustments to employees. Work with store management across departments to examine existing employee policies regarding sick time and compensation and see what flexibility you can introduce to encourage a “health first” attitude.
Establish a list of health and safety standards your store aims to uphold for customers and employees. Examples include:
Use a people counting system: One of the best ways to minimize contact between employees and customers is to set a limit for the number of shoppers allowed inside the store at a given time. Be sure to display this number clearly on the outside of the store, so shoppers know there may be a wait. Monitor store capacity with an electronic overhead people counting system. Controlling the number of customers your employees work with also ensures those customers receive attentive service.
Assess existing conditions: Analyze your existing conditions within the store. How far are aisles spaced? Which departments do you anticipate receiving the most foot traffic during holiday shopping? Consider whether you can eliminate any tasks or rearrange any areas of the store to minimize customer contact and optimize flow. This is also a good time to create a set of mask and distancing guidelines for employees and shoppers to follow. Pay special attention to medium-risk employees, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists as those operating at the point of sale (POS) or dealing directly with consumers.
Encourage social distancing: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet. In your store, this might mean using signage to discourage queueing in check-out lanes and aisles and floor stickers to direct traffic. If possible, encourage self-checkout to promote safer distances. Consider setting up outdoor retail spots for open-air shopping. Make sure all shelves stay stocked throughout the day, so customers can shop for items without employee interaction unless necessary.
Add physical barriers where possible: Many stores have installed see-through plexiglass barriers and partitions to separate check-out employees at the POS and customers in line. You could utilize similar devices at information counters and return desks.
Have a disinfection strategy: Create a disinfection strategy for employees, customers, and equipment. This might include more frequent breaks for employees to wash their hands, installing sanitizing or handwashing stations throughout the store for employee and customer use, and regular disinfection on surfaces such as counters, shelves, doors, handles, shopping carts, cash registers, card scanners, writing utensils and handrails.
Once your health and safety protocols are in place, stay vigilant about changing conditions in your local community. Adjust your plans as needed. Be aware of spikes in COVID-19 cases, and take steps to ensure sick staff stays at home.
2. Adjust Business Hours
In addition to monitoring how many shoppers enter the store, you can also adjust your business hours to suit your specific needs. Some stores have extended shopping hours to discourage large crowds and allow holiday shoppers more time to browse without congregating. Other stores have found better success shortening business hours to minimize the amount of exposure their employees undergo throughout a shift. You also have an option to designate specific shopping hours for vulnerable populations. If you operate a small store or live in a high-risk area, consider allowing customers to schedule shopping appointments. This is a great way to keep in-store contact low while still fostering valuable customer relationships.
3. Expand or Include Curbside Pick-Up
If you don’t currently offer customers an option to pick-up their orders outside the store, there is no better time to start. In 2020, half of the consumers plan to use curbside or contactless pick-up for holiday shopping more than they did in 2019. Nearly 80% of shoppers say the option for contactless pick-up is important. Curbside pick-up is a good way to entice holiday shoppers who are high-risk or uncomfortable with in-store shopping to continue purchasing with you.
Ensure successful curbside pick-up with these steps:
Let customers know via advertising that they can shop and place orders online, over the phone, or via social media — whichever combination of methods works best for you.
Designate a pick-up area outside the store. The location should be close enough for employees to comfortably carry a customer’s order to them.
Create a curbside plan and create a pick-up crew to oversee order management and fulfillment.
Rearrange or block off parking near the store to accommodate your new arrangements.
4. Optimize Window Shopping
Another method that promotes safe shopping is optimized window shopping. In the past, window shopping simply meant browsing items for sale without much intent to purchase. In the era of COVID-19, it’s an innovative way to attract customers while maintaining safety protocols. Stores with optimized window shopping have rearranged displays, so passersby can see items from outdoors and scan QR codes if they’re interested in buying.
Here are some tips for optimizing your store for window shopping:
When selecting items for display, opt for your bestsellers or top holiday discounts.
Integrate signage in your display to guide customers through the new selection and check-out process.
Use window shopping as an opportunity to create new item bundles or conduct live demonstrations of products.
Create an outdoor distancing plan with ground markers and physical barriers.
5. Promote Online Shopping and Virtual Experiences
One of the most significant COVID-19 holiday shopper trends in 2020 will be the amount of online-only browsing and shopping. According to a Nielsen survey, there has been a 61% increase in e-commerce shopping trips since the pandemic began. Make sure your online shopping platform is up and running. If you own a small store or have no e-commerce options available, consider utilizing your social media channels to list top-selling items and holiday promotions. Then, encourage customers to call the store and place an order for contactless pick-up or local delivery.
While many shoppers might be missing the Christmas shopping experience — holiday music overhead and colorful decorations all around — many stores are creating memorable virtual experiences to entice shoppers this year. Retailers like Sam’s Club and Macy’s have implemented VR shopping experiences to help consumers feel like they’re getting the holiday treatment. Leverage your online platform to create virtual content to connect you with consumers, like behind-the-scenes videos, a “history of” series about your business, how-to guides for bestselling items or holiday tutorials featuring your products.
6. Communicate Changes With Customers
As you make adjustments for the upcoming shopping season, communicate all relevant changes to customers to minimize confusion and frustration. Let them know early and often about policy changes, mask requirements, social distancing guidelines and online offerings.
Use as many of the following advertising methods as you can:
Your social media channels
Banners on your website
Your mailing list or newsletter
While communicating with customers, practice patience and understanding. Let them know you’ve made changes in the best interest of your staff and to keep shoppers like them safe. Use optimism, hope and humor to remain authentic and remind shoppers that we are all navigating the situation as best we can.
Request a Free Quote From Traf-Sys Today
Shoppers are eager to continue celebrating holidays and shopping for Christmas during the pandemic. These steps can help you keep shoppers and employees safe all season long while continuing to make sales and grow your customer base. A Traf-Sys people counting system will allow you to maintain control over your store with automatic counting. When you pair it with our VisiCount software, you’ll also get valuable insights from your collected traffic data to help you make safer decisions for all involved. Request a free quote today!
Many industries use people counters as a way to understand what their daily traffic looks like. A store uses people counters to understand their busy times and their overall conversion rate. Libraries use people counters to understand their circulation in the context of how many visitors they have. Shopping centers, malls and other commercial property owners use people counters to gauge the desirability of their properties to retailers and set rents. In public spaces, colleges and universities, people counters track space utilization to assist with funding and resource distribution.
Businesses across sectors use people counters to get reliable data about their visitors and traffic patterns. They can apply this data to serve many purposes, which makes people counters so useful and versatile.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
Foot traffic is a metric many businesses use to understand how many people entered a specific location. Retailers use it to determine how many potential customers were in their store during a given time frame. Commercial landlords, especially those in shopping malls, use foot traffic to determine rent for retail locations. Retail space can command higher rent if more people pass by regularly.
Many businesses are familiar with traffic in how it relates to a website. Online, traffic is equal to the number of people who visited a website or particular page. Marketers use many tactics to drive traffic online, and the visitor count determines their success. An e-retailer looks at site traffic in relation to how many visitors placed an online order to learn how effective their website is at driving sales. Foot traffic is that same metric translated into the physical retail space.
Retailers use foot traffic to gain many useful insights. It lets them see when their peak hours are. They can also understand their conversion rate and lost sales opportunities. If a product doesn’t sell well during peak hours, it might be taking up valuable shelf space. A store can also correlate their business traffic to other events to see how they influence visitor counts. Boosting foot traffic is key to increasing sales, so understanding how visitor numbers rise and fall is critical.
How Do People Counters Measure Foot Traffic?
Online traffic is easy to measure. Most websites show their owners traffic graphs by default. To gain the same level of clarity over their visitor counts, physical businesses need to implement a people counting system.
One way to do this is to have someone count visitors with pen and paper or a handheld tally counter. The manual method is the least accurate and efficient. The staff member charged with counting visitors must be solely focused on counting people to avoid miscounts. Manual counting increases your labor expenses and limits staff productivity. If you have multiple store entrances, manual counting gets quite unwieldy. Even if staff members are incredibly focused, they’re still inclined to make errors because the task is so rote.
Electronic people counting systems boast 95%-99% accuracy and require no extra labor power to give you accurate counts. They measure business traffic and space utilization using either overhead or horizontal sensors. Overhead sensors go directly above the entrance and scan a predetermined zone in front of the door to identify pedestrians. They filter out shelves, carts, children and sometimes staff members to give you an accurate count. They also look at the direction of movement to separate those entering from those exiting. Overhead sensors might incorporate one or two video camera lenses, a thermal sensor or an infrared sensor.
Horizontal sensors work by projecting a break beam across the door frame. Whenever something passes through, it counts as a person. Anything tall enough to break the beam, including a loaded shopping cart, will be counted. Horizontal sensors can be uni-directional, meaning they count a person any time the beam breaks. In that case, you divide your final count by two to determine your actual traffic. They can also be bi-directional, where two parallel laser beams span the doorway. Whichever beam breaks first determines whether the pedestrian is entering or exiting.
People counters might give you a count by the hour or at the end of the day, depending on the system’s accuracy. Some types of overhead sensors can even track your foot traffic in real-time.
When you use automated people counters, you can access your foot traffic data via software. The software can break down your foot traffic into custom periods to compare traffic during a promotion or time of year to another. Analyze your data by the entrance to decide how to arrange your entrance displays. The software lets you import sales data to generate conversion rates and staffing data to track productivity in the context of traffic. You can also correlate traffic data to weather patterns or other external factors right from the software.
What Other Metrics Do People Counters Measure?
People counters measure more than just foot traffic. By counting the number of people visiting a business location, people counters can give you insights into:
A conversion rate is the number of transactions divided by the number of people who visit a store. Retailers used to assume most people who entered their store were buying something. When people counters become popular, the numbers told a different story. While the numbers remain hard to pin down, since not all stores track traffic accurately or at all, the industry average rests around a 20% conversion rate.
Understanding your conversion rate, rather than just your raw sales data, gives you an idea of how many sales opportunities you had. Even a 1% increase in conversions can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line. The only way to improve is to understand how your promotions, store, signage and other factors raise and decrease your conversion rates.
Average Transaction Value (ATV)
One way retailers can increase their revenue is to increase the basket size or amount of money individual shoppers spend per visit. This amount represents your ATV — your net sales divided by the number of transactions. Your point-of-sale (POS) system might generate your ATV automatically. Otherwise, you can calculate the figure manually. While you don’t need a people counter to access your ATV, you’ll benefit from aggregating foot traffic with your ATV and comparing these two metrics.
A 2011 academic study found increasing in-store traffic by just one unit increased average sales volume per hour by $9.97. Many factors can contribute to your average transaction value, and traffic is undoubtedly one of them. Understanding how traffic affects basket size in your store helps you maximize your revenue.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
It’s impossible to understand your customer acquisition cost without understanding your traffic and conversion rate. Any marketing you do, whether on or off the premises, determines how many people come through the door. Then, the marketing within the store, product selection and layout determine who converts. All the costs that go into marketing divided by the number of customers acquired represent your CAC.
The data used to determine your CAC can come from your marketing budget and your POS system. It’s crucial to look at this number in light of your foot traffic to identify areas to lower your CAC. If you’re spending a lot of marketing budget getting people in the door, and they aren’t converting in-store, you may need to adjust your strategy. Increasing your conversion rate may lower your CAC.
Benefits of People Counters for Businesses
Retailers, librarians, facilities managers, landlords, hoteliers and anyone with a physical business location can use people counting technology. No matter your business, you’ll benefit from knowing how many people visit you and when. Foot traffic data offers businesses across industries actionable information. Here’s why your business needs a people counter:
Better Understand Business Performance
Seeing your foot traffic and conversion rate lets you know how effectively your business is performing. If a different marketing strategy or employee-to-customer ratio impacts traffic or conversions, you know about it from your foot traffic reports.
You can also compare the performance of one location to another. Are all your sites earning traffic in equal measure as a result of your marketing? Or, are some of your stores consistently pulling in more foot traffic? When you know which stores are drawing in the most customers, you can investigate what factors are at play so you can boost performance at other locations.
Improve Customer Experience
Peak hours sometimes correlate with your shoppers’ needs. For example, a store with peak shopping hours on weekends might cater to “shoppertainment.” Shoppers on weekends may be more interested in having an enjoyable, leisurely visit. A store with peak traffic after business hours on workdays needs a different approach. It might focus on helping shoppers quickly find what they need so they can get home sooner.
When you know your peak shopping hours, you can design a customer experience for the people shopping. It also lets you optimize staffing, so your store runs smoothly during busy times, improving customer experience.
Evaluate Signage and Promotional Success
Is your latest promotion driving more traffic to your location? Is your new sign drawing in passersby from around the plaza? Foot traffic data lets you know if your out-of-store promotions make an impact. Knowing your conversion rate, you’ll also see how your in-store displays affect sales in proportion to traffic. Based on how your traffic and conversions rise and fall, you can tweak your business marketing strategies to find the winning formula.
Compare Digital vs. Physical Traffic
Different types of marketing strategies for small businesses will have different effects on your customers’ behavior. For instance, some of your promotions drive traffic to your website and others to your brick-and-mortar location. Do the same factors that increase your physical traffic give you some lift online? Do you gain more online visitors when in-store traffic is low? Comparing your online and offline visitors lets you better understand your customer journey. Foot traffic shows you how your promotions influence shopping behavior across selling channels.
Understand External Factors That Affect Your Business
Anything from the weather and season to the economy and consumer trends can influence your traffic. Bad weather can impact sales by 23.1%, primarily due to the lowered foot traffic. While these factors are out of your control, knowing how they influence your traffic lets you prepare.
For instance, weather-themed sales, such as for rain clothing or beach fashion, can increase by 40.7% based on the weather. Knowing how weather affects your traffic and conversions in particular product categories helps you make the most out of weather events. You might orchestrate a last-minute sale on bathing suits or fans in anticipation of a heat wave. If snowstorms tend to make business slow, you can move your staff schedule around in anticipation. Likewise, if an annual parade in your area brings in more foot traffic, you can prepare with promotions to attract paradegoers.
Ideally, you want to schedule only as many team members as needed to cover the number of shoppers you have. If you’re understaffed, you’ll miss sales opportunities. Too few cashiers will increase lines at the register, which may turn away customers. Too few stockers may mean you run out of popular items and won’t sell as many as your customers demand. Overstaffing your store means you’ll spend more on labor than you need to.
Knowing what your traffic looks like by the day and by the hour lets you schedule staff most effectively. Once you’ve been using people counting for a year or two, you’ll start to anticipate your seasonal rushes, letting you optimize temporary staffing, too.
A people counter is an essential part of your loss prevention system if you know how to read your foot traffic reports. First, you’ll establish a baseline for how much revenue you can expect in a given period as correlated with your foot traffic. Let’s say you usually average about $500 in sales between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sundays, with usual foot traffic of 50 people.
If you get around 60 visitors one Sunday and sales revenue stays at around $500, the cause may be shoplifting. Your traffic data also shows you if more people used a particular entrance, like the one closest to electronics. If something like this shows up on your foot traffic reports, it’s a good idea to review your security footage during that sales window.
Video-based people counters can even supplement your regular security cameras.
Evaluate Business Expansion Opportunities
When you track foot traffic at your location, you’re armed with more knowledge regarding expanding. Since many commercial landlords track foot traffic, you can compare your current traffic numbers to those cited at a potential rental location. Predict whether a new site will be as profitable as your first based on the foot traffic data.
While there are two main categories of people counters, each has a few different options. Horizontal sensors give you a choice between bi-directional and uni-directional counting. Overhead sensors all offer multi-directional data, with either thermal and image-based counting. Each of these options provides a unique set of advantages and drawbacks.
Horizontal Wired and Wireless Counting Systems
Horizontal counting systems count people based on how many breaks in the horizontal laser beam they sense. These are the most basic and inexpensive automatic people counters. They might use bi- or uni-directional data to give you a count. Since horizontal sensors go along the doorframes of each entrance, they are fast and easy to install.
The downside of horizontal counting systems is their accuracy. Since they only have a linear range, miscounts are more likely. Two people walking abreast may be counted as one. A tall child accompanying an adult shopper might be counted as another potential shopper. If your sensor makes a noise when it senses a passerby, you might get children falsely triggering the sensor for fun.
A uni-directional sensor also makes it harder to pinpoint peak shopping hours. For example, say you take counts every hour using a uni-directional sensor. Every hour, on the hour, you divide your hourly count in two. Let’s say 25 people visited your location in a given hour, and many showed up in the last half of the hour. By the time the hour is up, only five of those 25 people have left the store. A uni-directional sensor would give you a count of 30. You would divide that in two, leaving you with 15. You would wrongly estimate you had 15 visitors during the hour when your traffic was 25.
Because of their accuracy limitations, a horizontal people counter is best for doorways narrower than 10 to 15 feet maximum. They also work better for low-density entrances, making them an affordable option for small businesses. Horizontal counters come in both wired and wireless versions. If you have outlets handy near each entry, you can plug your sensors in at a standard 110-volt power outlet. All the horizontal counters can be battery-powered, giving you a year or more of operation between replacements.
Overhead Counting Systems
Overhead sensors have a bird’s eye view of your entrance area. Since they cover the zones in front of your entrances and identify people individually, they give a more detailed view of your customers. They sense directional flow, so they automatically discount people exiting the store. They can also give you an idea of where your traffic is headed, whether that’s forward, to the right or to the left. Two types of technology can power overhead counting systems — thermal and video sensors. These two technologies can even integrate, so one verifies the other’s accuracy.
No matter which type you choose, you can gain distinct benefits from an overhead sensor. They’re an excellent option for locations with wide entrances and a large physical layout. Overhead sensors are more accurate and can filter out shopping carts and children.
Thermal Overhead Sensors
Thermal overhead sensors use thermal imaging technology to detect people entering and exiting. These systems use body heat, so they can’t accidentally count a cart or another object. Since thermal cameras don’t use light, they work equally well in low-light settings like restaurants and in direct sunlight.
Another benefit of thermal overhead sensors is they have an impressive 95% accuracy. They can cover wide entrances and integrate with detectors at other doors.
One downside to thermal sensors is they are more expensive than basic horizontal counters. Compared to video cameras, they have a smaller field of vision and a lower resolution. As a result, they’re less accurate at identifying children. One other disadvantage is they can only track people in motion. A display near the entrance that causes people to stop can affect the system’s accuracy.
Video-Based Overhead Sensors
The other type of overhead sensor is a system using a camera lens. These overhead counters can provide video footage of your store traffic. The sensor and corresponding software automatically generate traffic data. You also have up to 10 days of stored footage, which you can access for more in-depth analysis. Since the technology is video-based, it can even act as a backup for your security cameras.
Video sensors come in two types — single and dual-lens cameras. The dual cameras offer binocular vision for greater depth perception, while single-lens systems are more affordable. While they are most expensive to implement, video sensors provide excellent accuracy. They can filter out carts, strollers and children from your results with precision.
How to Choose the Right People Counter for Your Business
Your business will likely benefit from all the fantastic metrics available to you with a people counter. The question is, which one is right for you? Different people counters work better in different buildings and layouts. Ask yourself four questions to narrow down your options.
How is your entrance set up? If you have an open doorway, a horizontal counter may not provide accuracy. Horizontal counters work best with sliding doors since the doors won’t block the beam. If you have swing doors, you’ll need them to swing out. Also, low-volume entrances are more conducive to horizontal sensors.
How wide is your entrance? A wide opening — anything above 15 feet — will likely require an overhead people counter. You may need several overhead sensors to span the distance. We generally recommend one sensor per 11 feet of opening. Overhead counters will also need a wired connection to the ceiling.
What time intervals do you want to use when capturing traffic? If you only need a general count of how many people visit your business a day, a uni-directional horizontal sensor is all you need. If you want to capture data by the hour or even more frequently, a bi-directional sensor will work better. Track traffic over shorter intervals using either horizontal or overhead sensors.
Do people browse near your entryway? Since thermal sensors need people to be in motion for an accurate count, it may lose accuracy if shoppers stop near the entrance. A horizontal sensor won’t get confused unless someone stops in the exact path of the laser beam. However, if you have many people browsing in the entryway, you may want to collect more data. Video-based sensors can keep an eye on shoppers who stop to browse and those who pass on through. Review the stored footage from your overhead sensor to get an idea of how many of your visitors pause to browse your display entrances.
Request Your Free Quote From Traf-Sys
Traf-Sys offers an array of people counting systems to meet the needs of any business. Our most sophisticated people counting system, SafeEntry, offers real-time people counting for occupancy monitoring. We also provide affordable horizontal people counters and data-rich overhead people counters. Our systems are between 95%-99% accurate, and we’ll assist you through the entire installation process. We can help you decide which people counter is right for you and teach you to make sense of your foot traffic data after implementation.
Ready to start collecting valuable data about your visitors? Tell us about your company and the products you’re interested in and request your free quote today.
Technology is on the menu for many restaurants looking for ways to improve their operations, enhance the customer experience and increase profits. One of the tech tools you may not have considered yet for your restaurant business is a people counting system. These systems are especially popular in the retail industry, but some restaurateurs are catching on to the fact that people counting systems also have some valuable applications in their sector.
These systems can help restaurant owners and managers monitor their occupancy levels for social distancing requirements and provide them with important metrics for managing and improving their businesses. If you’re interested in these major benefits, take a moment to learn more about people counting systems and how you can use them in your restaurant.
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If you’re new to the world of people counting systems, there are a few things you need to know. People counting systems can consist of only software or a combination of hardware and software. In either case, they help you monitor the number of people who visit your business. This can help with tracking in real-time to remain within capacity limits and providing data that can help you measure your restaurant’s success.
Some systems use software installed on your devices, such as a touch-screen tablet or mobile phone, to facilitate people counting. In these systems, you need employees stationed at each entry point of your restaurant. The employee will indicate on their device each time a person enters or exits the building.
Even if you have several entrances and exits, you can have multiple employees track people coming in or going out. The software will combine the input from all workers to keep an accurate count of the total number of people inside at any given time.
2. Thermal Overhead Sensors
Overhead counting systems with combined hardware and software have some advantages over software-only programs since they automate the process. Thermal overhead systems register when a person walks in your restaurant by sensing their body heat.
These systems are highly accurate, and they have multidirectional sensing. In other words, they can tell whether a person is entering or exiting your restaurant based on the direction they’re moving toward. They can even sense how people move around inside your restaurant.
3. Video-Based Overhead Sensors
Another type of overhead sensor is a video-based system. These processes use video cameras mounted on the ceiling to visually track people entering and leaving your restaurant.
This can help you monitor the number of patrons in your restaurant. These systems can also filter out children and strollers, so you can count only adults if you want. Video systems require adequate lighting to sense people’s comings and goings.
Using People Counting Systems to Monitor Restaurant Occupancy Limits
All restaurants have occupancy limits. Building inspectors set these limits according to guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If your restaurant is divided into separate rooms, such as the main dining area and a private banquet or set of party rooms, you’ll have distinct occupancy load ratings for each of these spaces. When restaurants purchase tables and chairs and arrange their seating, they should make sure their restaurant’s seating capacity does not exceed their official capacity limits.
Normally, once you’ve arranged your restaurant’s seating, you never have to give your occupancy limits a second thought unless you notice there are areas where too much congestion occurs and people are uncomfortable.
The Importance of Occupancy Limits
In many cases, state and local governmental bodies have imposed new restrictions on restaurants to ensure they avoid overcrowding and encourage social or physical distancing. This practice is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as remaining 6 feet apart from people who are not in your household. This distance can provide a buffer between occupants that prevents them from passing germs, as they would be more likely to do if they were close together.
For many restaurants, promoting social distancing means adjusting their capacity limits for the time being. Even in the absence of government mandates, restaurants should still adjust their capacities and layouts as needed to follow CDC guidelines and create safe environments for their customers.
How to Measure Restaurant Occupancy Limits
Some local mandates require restaurants to limit their capacity to a certain percentage of their maximum load rating. For example, bars and restaurants in Minnesota must restrict their capacities to a maximum of 50%. If their normal capacity limit was 150 people, it would now be just 75 people. Limiting capacity according to a percentage can be a helpful way forward for restaurants looking to reduce crowding.
However, you may be able to arrive at a more precise calculation by determining the number of customers or parties you can fit in your dining room while maintaining 6 feet between tables. Normally, restaurants should allow at least 18 inches between seats that back up to each other, but this amount of space isn’t enough for physical distancing.
The CDC recommends reworking your restaurant’s layout to allow for adequate social distancing. Once you’ve created an arrangement that enables this, count the number of seats to arrive at your dining area’s new maximum capacity. Keep in mind that this number does not include waitstaff, so it is best to err on the side of allowing a bit of extra space.
You may think that spacing out tables and seats is enough to ensure you stay within your new capacity limits, but that isn’t necessarily the case. You could have people crowded in your lobby, for instance, causing you to exceed your restaurant’s safe capacity limits.
This is where people counting systems can prove extremely useful. Whether by using employees equipped with occupancy counting software or automatic people counting devices, your restaurant can accurately track the total number of people inside at any given time. This way, you can be sure you’re staying within your new maximum capacity rating and encouraging social distancing.
Accurate occupancy tracking is especially critical if you’re trying to follow mandates from your local government. Even without those mandates, though, you want to demonstrate to the public that you care about their well-being and are serious about your social distancing policies. By using a people counting system and enforcing your capacity limits, you can avoid unsafe instances of overcrowding.
Using People Counting Systems to Improve Restaurant Profitability
People counting systems are helpful for more than just monitoring capacity limits. They can also help owners and managers develop strategies to increase sales in restaurants by providing critical data. There are many metrics, also called key performance indicators (KPIs), restaurants can use to measure their profitability.
Some of these metrics involve costs and other things that do not relate to occupancy. Some KPIs, however, deal with foot traffic, conversion rates and other factors associated with the number of people who enter your restaurant and enjoy a drink or meal there. A people counting system can help you track these KPIs, which subsequently gives you enhanced insight into how your business runs and how you can improve your building layout to better serve customers.
Profitability Metrics for Restaurants
Restaurateurs should pay attention to various metrics to gain a full and objective picture of how their restaurant is doing and where they can improve their practices. When you make a change, you can use the data once again to see what effect it had. Simply relying on general impressions and hunches is a poor way to do business since these things can often be wrong. Instead, you should rely on data.
What sort of data? Restaurants should start by establishing variables like their fixed overhead costs and break-even point so they understand the baseline they need to meet to be profitable. Aside from these basic measurements, some KPIs that restaurants should consider tracking include:
Cost of goods sold (COGS): The cost of goods sold is essentially the cost of your inventory. In this case, those are the ingredients that go into making the dishes you sell. You need to know this cost so you can determine which prices to put on your menu and how much you need to sell to be profitable.
Labor cost: Another important number you need to know is how much you spend on compensating your employees. Adding your labor costs and COGS together gives you your prime cost. You also want to identify the labor cost percentage. In other words, what percentage of your total sales will pay your employees?
RevPASH: A helpful way to measure profitability in the restaurant industry is revenue per available seat hour (RevPASH). To calculate your restaurant’s RevPASH, you divide your revenue for a certain time period by the number of seat hours in that same period. This tells you how much money, on average, each seat is pulling in.
Average ticket size: This KPI is also commonly called sales per head. This metric is a measure of how much the average diner or party spends at your restaurant. You’ll typically want to note these averages separately for different times of day, such as lunch and dinner service.
Table turn time: You should also know the average amount of time a party spends eating and relaxing around a table in your restaurant. This can help you determine how many people you can host during an average day or lunch or dinner service.
Occupancy rates: It’s also helpful to know what percentage of your tables or seats are occupied with paying customers at any given time. In addition to the average table occupancy, you’ll want to note which times of day are busiest and which are slowest so you can plan and staff accordingly.
Conversion rates: One of the most important KPIs you can measure is your conversion rate, especially if your restaurant is in an area with a lot of foot traffic where people come in to check the place out or view your menu. This is the percentage of people who step through your front door who end up making a purchase.
Gross profit: Gross profit is the money left over after you’ve subtracted the cost of goods sold from your revenue. You can calculate this cost for specific periods to determine the gross profit you made during that time. Keep in mind that some of your gross profit will go to cover fixed overhead costs.
These numbers aren’t very helpful in a vacuum. Restaurants often compare their KPIs to restaurant financial benchmarks to determine the health of their businesses. For instance, understanding the norm for restaurant industry sales can help you know whether yours are on point. You can also use KPIs to compare the performance of various restaurant locations or compare your restaurant’s profitability at different seasons or year over year.
Using a People Counting System to Help You Manage Your Restaurant
Notice that some of the KPIs above require you to know how many people are visiting your restaurant. In some cases, you could use a modern point of sale (POS) system to track sales data, but this will only give you information about tickets. To know the precise number of people in your restaurant and to determine conversion rates, you need a system that accounts for every person who walks into your establishment. You can get this data with a people counting system.
Using a people counting system to measure restaurant traffic has some important benefits for tracking your restaurant’s performance and helping you strategize to improve your business. The data your system provides can help you with:
Scheduling: Your people counting system could give you valuable insight into what days of the week or times of day are busiest and which are slowest, so you can schedule staff strategically. This can help you avoid under- and overstaffing, which could then lead to reduced labor costs.
Promotions: Accurately understanding slow times can also help you determine when you may need to offer a special promotion to drive more traffic to your business. If you do create promotions, you can use your people counting system to determine how successful or unsuccessful your initiative was in driving more traffic.
Conversions: Strategies to increase sales in restaurants must start with an accurate understanding of your current conversion rates. Comparing your people counting data to your sales information will show you any gap that exists in the people who come in and people who are paying customers. These are the potential patrons who decide to leave rather than be seated or order at the counter. If you have a conversion rate that is less than ideal, it’s time to find ways to convert these skeptical walk-ins.
Traffic trends: You can also use this data to determine whether your restaurant is experiencing growth or a decline in popularity. This could change from quarter to quarter or year to year. You can also compare the traffic levels at different restaurant locations. You may find your marketing strategy needs to focus on how to increase foot traffic to your restaurant.
Footfall patterns: If you have multiple entrances, you can also use people counting systems to see which entrances your patrons use most, which could differ depending on the time of day or other factors. This can help you decide where to place host podiums or signs directing customers to seat themselves or telling them where they need to go.
Customer experience: Ultimately, tracking foot traffic numbers and patterns in your restaurant can help you deliver an improved customer experience. Whether through better staffing decisions, an adjusted layout or any other improvement you’ve made, customers can enjoy a better experience at your restaurant.
Considerations When Choosing the Right People Counting System for Your Restaurant
According to an industry report from Toast, a provider of hardware and software solutions for restaurants, 95% of restaurateurs believe restaurant technology improves their business efficiency. What holds restaurant owners back from purchasing new technology for their businesses? In many cases, it’s the overwhelming nature of all the tech options out there today. How can you know what you really need?
In addition to important tools like POS systems, digital menu screens and online ordering features, you should also seriously consider investing in a people counting system. As we’ve seen, this simple addition to your restaurant can pull in valuable data to help you manage your company more successfully. It could help you significantly as you monitor occupancy levels. The question then becomes, how can you choose the best people counting system for your restaurant?
Consider each of these questions to determine what type of system is best for your application:
What is your budget? One practical concern you’ll need to consider is your budget. If you want to invest in a people counting system, but you’re working within a tight budget, you may want to consider a software-only solution. Keep in mind, however, that this means employees have to monitor entrances. Alternatively, you could start by leasing a system and then make a purchase later when your budget allows.
Do you have an outlet near your entrance? If you’re looking at wired systems, make sure you have an electrical outlet near your entrance. If not, stick to wireless ones.
Do people tend to linger at your entrance? If you have a large entrance where people tend to linger or congregate to wait to order or wait on tables, an overhead video system is probably the best option since it can detect people’s presence even if they are standing still.
Does your entrance double as an exit? If you have people entering and exiting through the same doors, which is typical for most restaurants, then you will need multidirectional — or bidirectional — sensors that can tell whether someone is coming in or leaving. Multidirectional systems, such as thermal overhead programs, are beneficial for giving you an accurate count of how many people are inside your restaurant.
Do you have more than one entrance? If you have more than one entry point to your restaurant, you’ll need a system with multiple sensors that coordinate using the same software. This way, you can combine the data from each door to get an accurate count.
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Some restaurants are installing people counters to meet the challenges associated with the industry. However, as we’ve seen, people counting systems can deliver a whole host of benefits to restaurants by providing valuable data on traffic quantity and patterns. For these reasons, people counting systems will maintain a strong presence in restaurants well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Capacity and occupancy counting is new territory for many retailers. Once, it made sense to use a people counting system that could give you a tally at the end of the day or even once per hour. In this way, people counting technology has been used for many years to predict staffing needs and calculate conversion rates.
The issue for retailers today is in finding the best store traffic counters to achieve real-time occupancy tracking. While the technology has been around for years, not all systems can handle continuous monitoring. So, we’ve compiled this guide to everything you need to know about using customer counters for capacity limits. Learn about the benefits of using this technology, check out features you should look for and compare the systems available.
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Today, live occupancy counts are being used to comply with building capacity limits with continuous monitoring. When enforcing fire codes or other safety measures, accurate counting allows you to meet occupancy limits without sacrificing customers. You can also improve shopper satisfaction and maximize sales opportunities. If you keep a line outside your store to stay under capacity, a live count can allow customers to see the current occupancy and decide if they want to wait in line.
As real-time occupancy tracking evolves, retailers will be able to optimize staffing even more. Knowing how many people are in your store and what time they entered allows you to predict how many registers to keep open. You can keep checkout wait times down and avoid short-staffed registers. That level of detail lets you maximize your cashiers’ efficiency, moving them to other duties when occupancy decreases.
The right technology allows you to track staff members separately from customers. This ability can also improve efficiency. For example, imagine the current occupancy count calls for five checkout lanes to be open in 15 minutes. The store manager can use people tracking to see if staff opened five lanes and intervene if needed. The possibilities for continuous occupancy tracking continue to grow as more retailers adopt the technology and begin harnessing its power.
What to Consider Before Choosing Your Customer Counter
People counting technology harnesses sensors to provide a count of how many people enter a store, room or building. Among the many reasons to use a customer counter, limiting or enforcing store capacity is an increasing need. Before you can choose one for your store, you need to evaluate your setting to understand which models will work for you.
First, look at your entrance. Swinging doors may impede the use of certain types of sensors. Some people counters work better for larger doorways, while others can only handle entries up to a specific width. If you have displays and frequent browsing taking place near the entrance, you’ll need a system that can distinguish various objects and movements to avoid miscounts.
Further, you’ll likely need to consider your power requirements. Some models require nearby plug-in power sources, usually a 110-volt outlet. Others offer wireless capabilities with rechargeable or lithium batteries and Power of Ethernet (PoE) capabilities.
Best Features for Capacity Limit People Counters
Most retail people counting systems measure conversion rates. They allow you to look at the total number of sales in the context of the number of people in the store. Depending on the system used, you may receive counts at the end of the day or by the hour. This system works well for marketing purposes, but it may not be ideal for occupancy counting.
If your store plans to use your customer counter to enforce capacity limits, be on the lookout for six key features:
Bi-directional counting: Not every people counting system is optimized for occupancy tracking. To get an accurate picture of who is in your store at a particular time, you need to track both people leaving and entering.
Real-time reporting: A people counting system with intuitive software should be able to give you live reporting. This function allows you to monitor capacity by the minute rather than by the day or hour.
Customization options: The possibilities for people counting are vast. While you may use your counter primarily for occupancy tracking, you may want features for internal metrics. In that case, the ability to connect it to other devices and the right software is critical. You’ll also want the ability to set a custom maximum capacity and a counting range. Finally, it’s helpful to distinguish employees from customers.
Customer-facing display: A digital display allows customers to understand your current capacity. It lets them know when it is safe to enter or how crowded the store will be.
Whole-store tracking: Many sensors can link together in a network. This feature is useful when a store has multiple entrances. Many stores have found it challenging to set the right capacity limit. With integrated tracking, you can find the proper capacity for your space to avoid crowding without sacrificing customers.
Overhead counting: You’ll need an overhead-style people counter to access live reporting. Counters installed on the ceiling directly above your entrances provide the most reliability. With a bird’s eye view, individuals cannot be blocked from the sensors. These counters can be used with doors that swing in either direction and can filter out children, shopping carts and strollers to help you get the most accurate count of your customers. An aerial view also allows these counters to track movement, meaning they can distinguish between shoppers entering and exiting. If there are merchandise displays in the entryway, overhead sensors will not be disrupted, and lingering shoppers won’t be counted more than once. You’ll likely need a power source and a wireless internet connection for live overhead tracking.
Types of Customer Counters for Store Capacity Limits
There are many different types of people counting systems on the market. Each one has unique features that make them ideal for specific environments. To use a people counter for capacity tracking, you’ll need models capable of providing accurate, real-time reports. Keep in mind that many people counters are designed with marketing analytics in mind rather than capacity planning. While any occupancy counter will also be able to provide data to measure conversion rates and the success of your marketing campaigns, not all people counters support live occupancy reporting. Here are two of the best customer counters available, and their level of suitability for live capacity monitoring:
1. Stereo People Counters
Stereo counters are about the size of a rectangular pencil case with two camera lenses. Like human eyesight, the dual cameras provide depth of field. The technology is modeled closely after how binocular vision works in nature. Each of your eyes creates a slightly different image, which your brain combines to create an understanding of your surroundings in three dimensions.
Most stereo sensors mimic the typical distance between human eyes, which averages around 60 millimeters. The software connected to the sensors does the same work as our brains, making sense of the two images collected by each of the camera lenses for 3D image processing. The result is a sensor that can count people as well as a person can. Unlike a person, the technology won’t get fatigued and is less likely to make mistakes.
Benefits of Stereo People Counting Systems
The dual-camera configuration allows the sensor to track the direction of traffic and other useful data. These systems usually attach to the ceiling above the measurement area. They can be slightly tilted to create a broader field of vision while maintaining accuracy. Stereo counters won’t lose sight of their targets even with gaps in traffic flow, making them suitable for high and low volumes. They can monitor entries and exits in real-time. Because of their depth of field, they can estimate heights, identify children and exclude shopping carts for greater accuracy.
Stereo sensors can also be linked in a network to cover every entrance. This feature makes them useful for shopping malls, large department stores or any building with multiple entrances and exits. Because they update via software in real time, an employee at one entrance can tell how many people have entered a store through any door. This capability significantly eases communication and visibility since you don’t have to aggregate information from several employees taking manual counts.
Drawbacks of Stereo People Counting Systems
One potential downside of a stereo counting system is that it uses cameras to identify and track people. Because cameras use visible light, changes in lighting and dim conditions can affect accuracy. Shadows and a busy background can also occasionally influence results. Traf-Sys systems have advanced light sensors that help our stereo counters adjust to different lighting conditions, making them more accurate in various ambient lighting conditions.
Collecting images of your shoppers may present a privacy concern. If your store already uses and stores security footage, you can adapt your current privacy procedures to protect your customers. If privacy is a concern for you, we recommend our time of flight people counting systems, which eliminate this obstacle.
Stereo Counters Available From Traf-Sys
Traf-Sys offers a variety of binocular stereo video sensor models in our Spectrum collection. We have options for indoor heights up to 29.5 feet. We also have systems for outdoor applications with waterproof hardware. They are resilient to changes in lighting or temperature, making them some of the most advanced camera trackers. They also have options to filter out strollers and carts to maintain an accurate capacity count and avoid sacrificing potential revenue. Our systems also have extended coverage for broader entries.
2. Time of Flight Sensor
At about the size of a Wi-Fi router, a time of flight sensor uses some of the most advanced tracking technology. Like a stereo counter, a time of flight sensor can be used for 3D imaging. It sends a signal to the objects below it from its attachment point on the ceiling. Then, it records the reflection of infrared light as it bounces back to the sensor. It can build 3D images of customers by calculating the differences in speed between each beam of infrared light — hence the name, “time of flight.” With excellent depth of field, it can track movement and traffic better than stereo models. These sensors can work even in total darkness and link with other cameras to cover a wide entrance and enhance your data.
Time of flight people counters can track movement along x-, y- and z-axes. The result is even higher accuracy when it comes to tracking movement. They can calculate the heights of individuals within 2 centimeters, making them even more powerful at filtering out shopping carts and children. The images collected by time of flight sensors delineate the shape of a person with incredible accuracy, even outlining the contours of heads and shoulders. Like stereo sensors, they can be mounted on a tilt, increasing the measuring zone for wider entrances.
They are also lighting fast. One study found that time of flight sensors can measure at 150 frames per second, making real-time reporting possible. The same report also found that these sensitive instruments have a minimal average error rate of just 3.1%.
Because time of flight technology works on infrared rather than visible light, it also collects completely anonymous data. You will not need to adopt new practices to protect your customers. Further, it is unaffected by busy floor patterns or shadows.
Drawbacks of Time of Flight Sensors
Though this technology is promising, not all manufacturers can boast excellent performance. It’s crucial to find a provider who can back up their accuracy claims. The Traf-Sys time of flight tracking system has a 99.5% accuracy rating, and we’ve backed this up with video validation.
One other disadvantage of time of flight sensors is they tend to be more expensive to implement than stereo counters. If budget is a concern for you, you may prefer stereo occupancy monitoring solutions.
Time of Flight People Counting Systems From Traf-Sys
The connected software provides a real-time occupancy count. Connected screens use color-coded warnings when the occupancy is approaching or exceeding capacity. You also have the option to include or exclude staff and keep the records for marketing analysis.
Learn More About Real-Time Occupancy Monitoring From Traf-Sys
At Traf-Sys, we offer a wide selection of people counters for a variety of purposes. We’ve been at the forefront of continuous people counting through our time of flight capacity tracking solution. We also offer one of the best apps for people counting on iPads, smartphones and other mobile devices. Our SafeEntry application is optimized for occupancy tracking, while VisiCount provides advanced footfall analytics, which you can access right from your device.
Long lines cost retailers a collective $37.7 billion a year. They’re also the element of your customers’ shopping experience that they’re least happy with. Only 23% of shoppers say they are satisfied with the length of the lines at their preferred supermarket. Meanwhile, 18% of shoppers say they’ll choose a competing grocery store for a better checkout experience and a shorter queue.
Queuing plays a significant role in the customer experience — more than retailers previously thought. Finding ways to manage lines and create the best customer queuing system can have a considerable impact on how long customers wait and improve your ability to serve customers. We’ve created this overview of the processes, tools and tricks you can use to enhance your customers’ queuing experience.
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Customer queues exist throughout your supermarket or retail store. Checkout aisles and service desks are two prime examples. Grocery stores may have additional, miniature lines at the deli or seafood counters. Take-a-number systems, often used in those departments, create customer queues without asking patrons to stand in a single file.
Meanwhile, department stores might create checkout queues for popular departments, making it easier for customers to find the checkout counter and wait in a shorter line. Anywhere where your customers have to line up to receive service in an orderly fashion counts as a customer queue. However, not all queues involve standing in line, in the traditional sense. You may have experienced a digital customer queue if you’ve ever waited to connect with a customer service agent online.
Customer queues have been a staple of retail and most in-person, service-based industries. Patients wait in a less-obvious customer queue at the hospital or doctor’s office. In this case, the line is disguised as a waiting room, with the queuing happening in the back office as nurses prepare exam rooms and keep a list of arrivals at the check-in counter. Restaurants employ customer queuing during busy times as diners wait to be seated. Dining facilities have found ways to improve the waiting experience by giving customers a call or text when their table is ready.
Queuing isn’t always first-come, first-serve. In stores, where most queuing involves customers physically standing in line, the order is determined by the speed of checkout lanes. This phenomenon is one of retail’s main concerns when it comes to customer queues. When lines are organized into parallel rows, some can get held up. Larger basket sizes, slow equipment or an issue requiring a manager’s attention can hold up the line for one register. This clog leads the lanes on either side to move faster. Customers become frustrated when they see people who arrived after them being served before them in the lines nearby. So, how can retailers resolve this and all the issues that lead to unbearable wait times?
Customer Behavior in the Queuing System
The first step to resolving issues in the waiting line is understanding the customer psychology that contributes to them. Your customers can spend over an hour leisurely comparing brands, browsing your aisles and generally enjoying the experience for it to be suddenly sullied by a seven-minute wait at checkout. Here are some of the consumer behaviors at play in your checkout aisles:
Jockeying: Also known as queue jumping, jockeying involves customers switching lines to avoid long waits. A non-retail example of this is traffic congestion on the highway. Many drivers see the lane next to them moving faster than the one they are in and will switch from lane to lane to try to go more quickly. Studies show that lane-switchers worsen traffic jams. Motorists will become more frustrated when the lane they’ve joined ends up moving more slowly than the one they came from. In a retail setting, jockeying will decrease the wait time for the starting line while adding to the wait time at the new line. Just as in traffic, shoppers are often bad at judging how fast a queue will move, and sometimes wait longer than if they stayed in place.
Balking: After seeing a long line, some customers will choose not to wait at all. There are two leading causes of balking. First, the queue may be so long there is no place to wait. Second, the customer may anticipate an unpleasant wait time and choose not to buy anything at all. Balking costs your store revenue through reduced conversions. Among your balkers are a group of people who have done all the work to find the items and decide to buy them only to reverse course before making it to the register. As a secondary issue, balkers may be more likely to put merchandise back incorrectly and create more work for your team. Unlike lines in amusement parks, which promise excitement and thrill at the end, stores must find ways to convince people to wait.
Reneging: Similar to balking, some customers will get in line and then, after waiting for a few minutes, decide to leave. Line abandonment leads to lost conversions just feet before the checkout. Finding ways to reduce queue waiting times by only a few minutes can prevent this profit-eating behavior. Ensuring the lines move quickly and appear efficient, even when long, can help avoid reneging.
Ways to Manage Customer Service and Checkout Queues
A fast-moving queue prevents many of the revenue drains created by long lines. The right system will improve the organization of your queues and how your staff handles them. For example, one effective process would involve a cashier calling over patrons from a long line. The key to superior queuing is to reduce both actual and perceived wait time. Reducing wait times saves everyone time and increases store productivity. Lowering perceived wait times boosts customer satisfaction, even if the wait doesn’t change.
The good news is that the way you design your line can impact the wait time and how it feels to customers. Here are some strategies for your customer queuing system:
Serpentine line: The serpentine line is deceptively long and moves much faster than parallel checkout lanes found at many supermarkets. Instead, a set of checkout stations sit in front of a long, snaking line. These lines are often managed with a set of belt stanchions or shelves to create a space-saving S shape. Whichever register completes a transaction first calls the next customer to checkout. This system eliminates a holdup at one register from affecting other customers, reducing wait times overall. Many retailers find the serpentine line design speeds up their queues and helps customers leave happy. It also operates on the principle of first-come, first-served. The model appeals to people’s psychological desire for fairness. Even if wait times are only slightly shorter, shoppers recognize that they are being served in the order in which they came. They also have no shorter, faster line to compare their experience to. The one downside to this model is that customers may balk at the size of the line.
Prioritized lines: Many customer queues serve certain customers over others to improve wait times. A typical example of this is during airline boarding procedures. Splitting passengers into groups shortens the perceived wait times since each line is shorter. It also allows VIP customers, those who spend more money with the airline, to be served more quickly. While the prioritization strategy doesn’t have the same applications in retail, the express lane serves a similar purpose. However, express lanes are better at reducing perceived wait times than actual wait times. One study found that it takes cashiers a fixed 41 seconds to greet each customer and receive payments. Then, it’s only an additional three seconds per item. So, an express lane with 10 people will likely move slower than another lane with three people.
Sign-in to wait online: An innovation in the world of retail is appointment-based checkouts. Instead of asking customers to physically stand in line, they sign in at a kiosk or through their mobile phones. They are then given a checkout time or a selection of times to choose from. So, instead of holding their spot in line, customers can browse freely. A kiosk at the front door lets customers “wait in line” while they shop. An app can even allow your customers to sign up for a checkout slot before leaving the house. It’s like a take-a-number system for the digital world. A few downsides to this method is that with a set checkout time, customers may be discouraged from shopping at a leisurely pace and become less likely to add impulse buys to their carts. On the other hand, if the wait time is a bit longer, they may end up doing more of this browsing.
No line: Some retailers have decided to end the checkout line altogether. Retail’s no-line pioneers have associates checkout customers through portable card readers throughout the store. Now, retailers of all stripes can try removing the queue. Through a card-enabled mobile app, customers can scan barcodes on their phones as they go. When they’re ready to checkout, shoppers head toward a special kiosk where they can bag items and have their purchase verified.
Tricks to Improve Wait Times
Of course, redesigning your checkout line isn’t the only way to manage customer queues. Here are a few tactics any grocer or retailer can use to speed up checkout lines:
Collect wait time analytics: The first step to improving wait times is understanding how long they are. Tracking how wait times respond to variables is crucial for strategic decision-making. Line wait time is complicated and dependent on many factors. A hold up at the register, like a declined credit card or a rewards card signup, is one factor. Basket sizes, the speed of the checkout clerk and the number of customers in line each play their parts.
Display wait times: Once you can track wait times, consider posting them on a dynamic display. Knowing how long the wait will be makes it feel shorter. It also reduces waiting anxiety since customers can tell just how long they will stand in line. The key to improving customer service is the line is to overestimate the time frames. If customers hear that the line will take five minutes and it ends up taking 10, they’re likely to become annoyed. On the flip side, if an estimated 15 minutes turns into seven, customers feel they’ve saved time.
Try in-line entertainment: Time spent idle will almost always feel longer than time spent engaged in a task. It’s why half an hour of browsing feels quick and half an hour waiting in line is intolerable. Stores combat this through the careful selection of add-on items at the register. Between enticing tabloids and an array of quick bites and knick-knacks, there’s plenty to grab shoppers’ eyes while they wait. Retailers can also place screens above the register, displaying dynamic, attention-grabbing ads. Free Wi-Fi can also help shoppers entertain themselves with their own devices while waiting in the queue.
Improve processes and training: The way your staff handles checkouts can also impact speeds. Ensure cashiers master all the functions on their register. Baggers should know the fastest methods for consolidating items. You can also reduce wait times by helping cashiers need fewer manager approvals for everyday scenarios.
Use modern technology: A broken scanner or a slow receipt printer can add time to every sale. Complicated self-checkout machines force every customer to master a slow, unintuitive device. The latest technology will be more accessible for both staff and customers and process transactions quickly. Further, modern point-of-sale technology will have time-saving features like contactless pay.
How to Use People Counters to Improve Customer Queues
People counters take an exact count of stores’ total daily visitors and reveal peak shopping times. Within the store, they root out bottlenecks and underused areas while mapping customer journeys. People counters are also crucial tools to control queues.
Measure Conversion Rates
First, you can use people counting systems to track total visitors against sales. Understanding your conversion rate also reveals how many people skipped the register. Then, footfall data helps you learn what sends customers out the door. In-depth customer research through surveys and other methods may reveal the problem is unavailability or poor selection. If beelines for the exit stem from the checkout waiting area, you then know the problem is inconvenient queues.
Resolve Wait Times With Occupancy Data
Once you identify customer queuing as a significant pain point for your patrons, you can use people counting to resolve it. The first way is through staff optimization. If you install a people counter, patterns about your busiest hours will soon emerge. These peak hours often don’t line up with what we predict. Many assume their peak hours align with the end of the workday when traffic sometimes spikes during lunch breaks.
Once you establish these weekly patterns, you can assign registers accordingly. By keeping the checkout lanes staffed during your expected rushes, you’re prepared to serve an influx of customers. Knowing your real traffic patterns prevents you from understaffing because you think it will be slow. As an added benefit, you don’t have to staff as many registers during your off-hours, saving on labor and allowing you to use your team more effectively.
Besides your historical occupancy data, you can also leverage live reporting to adjust your checkout staffing. The average amount of time spent per shopping trip is roughly 45 minutes, according to Pew Research. If you have a real-time capacity counting system, you find out about spikes in your current occupancy about 30 minutes before those customers get in line to check out. While your weekly analytics should cover the usual rushes, live occupancy counting can help you get ahead of unexpected ones to prevent long waits.
The start of the COVID-19 outbreak marked a new era for grocery stores, suddenly deemed essential businesses. Stores struggled to keep up with the demand for cleaning products, soap and other essentials as customers stocked up to weather quarantines with unknown ends. Meanwhile, nonessential retailers closed their doors in wait of state reopening guidance. Stores evolved as they balanced social distancing with customer service. Many stores have undergone permanent changes in layout, as a result.
Social Distancing and the Checkout Queue
To maintain capacity, the next customer in line must wait until another shopper exits. The “one in, one out” system means the checkout line’s speed reflects the pace of the entry line pretty closely. So, boosting speeds at checkout will naturally improve the experience at the entrance.
One potential hangup is that 59% of consumers report using self-checkout more to protect themselves. These systems need to be cleaned often and can be slower if the technology confuses people. Even if your store uses parallel registers, a socially-distanced serpentine line for self-checkout can help. Also, keeping plenty of staff available to deal with technical issues can speed things up.
Other measures, like curbside pickup, can help you maintain correct social distancing by limiting the number of customers who enter the store. It works similarly to a digital sign-in system, where customers can book a time to have their items brought out to them. The waiting happens from the comfort of home rather than in a line.
Social Distancing and the Entrance Queue
Using a people counting system for capacity limits can be useful at your front doors. For example, the Traf-Sys SafeEntry software will display your current capacity limit and the number of “safe to admit” patrons.
The software also has the benefit of calculating your store’s busiest times. Since 66% of consumers say they now prefer to shop at slower times, information on your peaks is vital. Displaying this data in-store can be another service you provide to your customers. Further, posting your quietest hours can encourage more of your shoppers to visit then. By funneling more of your customers into your uncongested shopping times, you’ll keep capacity down at your busier times. It helps you maintain social distancing in-store while serving more of your customers quickly.
Use Traf-Sys People Counters to Improve Your Customer Queues
Traf-Sys people counting systems have helped retailers like you improve their queuing experience at the checkout with better footfall and occupancy counting. Our SafeEntry occupancy counting system provides a live report of your current occupancy, configured for every entrance. Accurate data helps you manage your entrance lines by letting in as many people as your limited capacity will allow, keeping customers happier and feeling safer.
For more information about our SafeEntry system or any of our customer counting solutions, request your free quote today.
Although the concept of social distancing, or maintaining space between people, is not new, the first time many people became familiar with the idea was during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing helps to reduce the risk of spread of the novel coronavirus and is believed to be an effective tool for lowering the rates of transmission in communities. While many businesses had to close their physical workplaces during the early phases of the pandemic, some did not or were not able to, as they were considered essential. As areas began the process of reopening, social distancing in the workplace became a requirement.
Your company might need to completely rearrange its layout and its operations to accommodate social distancing and keep your team members safe. Encouraging employees to keep physical distance from others and making it as easy as possible to keep that distance is vital for workers’ and customers’ safety during the pandemic and beyond.
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What does social distancing mean? It means maintaining a certain amount of physical distance between yourself and others to slow down the spread of highly infectious diseases. Although one of the most common descriptions of social distancing is keeping at least 6 feet (2 meters) between yourself and other people, there are other ways to maintain social distance. Working from home, avoiding spending time in crowded areas, such as concerts or theaters, and not going out to cafes or restaurants are a few ways to practice social distancing.
There’s evidence from history that social distancing works. For example, during the 1918 influenza pandemic, many cities across the U.S. implemented social distancing measures, such as closing down churches and schools and prohibiting large gatherings of people. Experts believe cities that adopted social distancing measures early on, such as Kansas City, Milwaukee and San Francisco, were able to reduce transmission by up to 50%. The length of time that social distancing measures were in place also had an effect on the mortality rate.
Social distancing is particularly important for reducing the spread of illness when there aren’t known or effective treatments and when vaccines are not available. Although there are vaccines and treatments against the flu, and most people will recover from the common cold with ease, practicing social distancing during the cold and flu season can also be useful for slowing down the spread of those illnesses.
Social distancing in the workplace offers multiple benefits to your company and your employees. For one thing, it helps to keep your team members safe and healthy. Taking steps to reduce the spread of disease means that your employees are less likely to become ill and that your company is less likely to experience an outbreak.
Encouraging or requiring social distancing in the workplace can also help people feel more at ease about coming back to work after a period of working remotely. For employees who need to interact with the public or with a large number of people each day, having social distancing measures in place can help them feel more confident about their safety. When employees feel cared for and respected on the job, they are more likely to stay with an employer.
Having a high employee retention rate saves your company time and money. It is time-consuming and expensive to hire new team members. Having a revolving door of employees is also not good for overall morale, meaning people might be less invested in their jobs and less likely to provide top-quality work or best-quality customer service if they see that their co-workers are regularly quitting.
Social distancing measures also allow your company to remain open during a pandemic. Without the appropriate social distancing efforts, your business might have to close or dramatically limit the services it offers. Encouraging your team and your customers to keep their distance means you can continue to provide your product or service for as long as possible.
7 Tips for Maintaining Social Distancing in the Workplace
Putting social distancing measures into practice can mean changing your company’s approach to operations. It can also mean rearranging the furniture and setting up new workplace guidelines to keep everyone safe. Here are a few social distancing tips to help you.
1. Stagger Shifts
It’s easier to practice social distancing when there are few people in an area at any one time. If a typical, pre-social distancing workday at your business required everyone to be in the office or building during the same hours, it can be worthwhile to introduce staggered shifts. Instead of having everyone come in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., have one group of employees come in from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and the next group from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. Another option is to have employees take turns working from home. Employee A can be in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while Employee B works from home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Employee B can be in the office while Employee A works from home.
If working from home isn’t feasible for your business or if you have limited hours during which you can operate, there are other ways to stagger shifts. You can ask employees to trade off shifts. For example, if you are a restaurant that is open for takeout on weekend evenings, Employee A can work on the first and third weekends of the month while Employee B works on the second and fourth weekends.
If your company can operate long enough each day to have multiple shifts, be sure you allow time between each shift for thorough cleaning of the workplace. Along with limiting face-to-face interactions between your employees, cleaning shared spaced and high-touch surfaces is important if you want to reduce the transmission of disease.
2. Use Visual Markers and Reminders
What does 6 feet of space look like in practice? It can be challenging for people to get a sense of whether they are standing too near to another, especially if they don’t have a tape measure handy. Make it easy for your team to see what 6 feet looks like by adding visual markers to the floor or walls. You can use the markers anywhere people might need to form a line, such as outside of the restrooms or when waiting for elevators.
Visual markers are also a must-have if your business is open to the public. Retailers can use pieces of tape to help shoppers see where they should stand when they are waiting in line to pay for their items. Applying tape or decals to the floor can also help people see where to stand when they are picking out items in the store’s aisles.
In addition to visual markers, it can be helpful to hang up signs that gently remind people to practice social distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of illness. Signs on restroom doors can remind people to wash their hands before they leave the room, for instance.
Along with handwashing signs, you can hang up notices to remind people to keep their distance from their co-workers or customers. You can make the signs fun and informative. For example, grocery stores can use images that depict two shopping carts standing between two individuals to help people get a sense of what 6 feet looks like.
3. Install People Counters
In many states, reopening guidelines require businesses to dramatically reduce the occupancy of their buildings or workplaces. Stores that were previously able to hold 300 people might be limited to letting in 75 or 100 people at a time. Restaurants that once had seating for 100 might only be allowed to serve 25 diners at once.
In an era when social distancing is critical, it’s vital that your business goes out of its way to keep track of the number of people who come and go. You don’t need to station a team member at the door to manually count the people enter and exit. Occupancy tracking software and people counters streamline the process for you. The software counts people as they come into the business and as they leave. It gives you a real-time view of the number of people in your building at any time. It also lets you compare the number of people in the workplace to the maximum occupancy allowed. You can then make decisions about admitting more customers, visitors or employees to the building or asking them to wait until occupancy drops.
4. Rethink In-Person Meetings
During times when social distancing is needed, avoid in-person meetings as much as possible. If your company typically holds a monthly or weekly all-hands meeting in the conference room or assembly room, consider making it a virtual meeting instead. Employees can log on to the event from their respective workspaces, either in the building or from their homes. The virtual meetings will give your company a chance to share what’s going on and to catch up with your team without putting anyone at risk.
There might be times when an in-person meeting is unavoidable. If that is the case, use extra caution when you prepare for the meeting. Limit the number of people who attend based on the size of the room it will take place in. Space the chairs in the meeting area so that they are at least 6 feet apart. Skip handshakes and other physical forms of greeting at the start and end of the meeting.
To be extra safe, you might ask everyone who needs to attend a meeting in person to wear a mask during it, especially if there will be more than two or three people in the room and especially if it will be tough to keep 6 feet of space between every participant.
Also, limit the length of any face-to-face meetings. Try to keep things under 15 minutes to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission.
5. Create Adequate Space Between Work Stations
Social distancing isn’t only for when employees might pass each other in the hallways or for customers who are browsing in your store or eating in a restaurant. Office workers also need their space. If your company has an open layout, rearrange the desks so they are at least 6 feet apart. Now is a good time to introduce partitions between work areas, such as cubicle walls. If your company’s office space is already divided into cubicles, consider raising the height of the partitions so they are taller than people. You can add plexiglass barriers to the top of the cubicle walls to extend their height.
If your company’s floor plan previously featured communal work tables, you have a few options for increasing the distance between workers who use them. Option one is to get rid of the tables entirely and to give each team member their own desk. Option two is to keep the tables, but rearrange them so that no one is within 6 feet of another person. Remove chairs and use tape to mark 6-foot areas on each table. It might also be worthwhile to set up barriers between each work area on the tables, as well. If employees are going to continue to share tables, make sure they are cleaned and disinfected throughout the day.
Stores and restaurants can find ways to increase space between work areas, as well. A store that has multiple checkout areas can use every other register. Leaving one register empty between workers helps them keep their distance from each other. It also helps to protect customers, as they are not lining up too close to shoppers in the queue next to them.
Restaurants that have multiple seating areas can limit the number of areas they use at once. Limiting seating areas will most likely be necessary for restaurants that need to follow stricter occupancy rules as part of social distancing. Individual tables in each seating area should be positioned so they are the proper distance apart, based on guidelines from the local public health department.
6. Limit Use of Common Areas
Employers might need to rethink the break room if they want to follow social distancing measures. The best way to encourage social distancing at work is to close off the breakroom and ask employees to socialize over Slack or video conferencing during their break periods. If that’s not a feasible option — for example, if employees have nowhere else to take their lunch break — then the break area should be set up to encourage physical distance between workers. Seating areas should be marked off so people are always at least 6 feet away from each other. You might also install occupancy monitors at the entrance of the break room so employees can see how many people are inside and if it is safe to go in.
Stores that sell clothing might need to rethink their approach to try-ons. One option is to prohibit customers from trying on garments in-store. Encourage people to buy the items they are interested in, try them on at home and return them if they aren’t a good fit. To make the situation more convenient for people, a store can extend the return period. If a store does decide to open fitting rooms, occupancy monitoring can help limit the number of people in the area at any time. If the fitting rooms are full, shoppers can be encouraged to take a remote buzzer and to continue browsing while they wait, instead of forming a line in a small area. When a room becomes available, the buzzer will alert the shopper and they can head back over to the fitting room.
In stores and offices, elevators are another area where social distancing can be challenging. Encourage people to take the stairs if they are capable of doing so. That way, the elevators will be left free for people who need them. Social distancing inside an elevator isn’t practical, so people should take them either one at a time or with other members of their household.
7. Encourage Packed Lunches
Social distancing in the workplace should also include encouraging people to social distance outside of the workplace. One way to do that is to ask people to bring a bagged lunch with them to work, rather than going out to eat in a restaurant or using the company cafeteria. Another way to limit employees’ contact with other people is to schedule shifts so that people are home for meals, rather than in the office or workplace.
An office worker might spend the morning at work, then leave at lunchtime and work the rest of their shift remotely. Retail establishments and restaurants might decide to schedule employees for four-hour shifts or split their shifts up so there is a significant break in the middle of the day, giving them time to go home and eat.
Benefits of Installing People Counters in the Workplace
Although rearranging furniture to create more space between individuals at the workplace will help encourage social distancing, the best way to ensure that there is plenty of room between individuals is to control the number of people who are inside an area at any one time. Whether you need to practice social distancing in an office, store or restaurant, people counters eliminate the need to manually count individuals as they enter and exit.
Beyond helping with social distancing, people counters offer additional benefits to workplaces. Retail establishments can compare the data captured by the devices to the amount of sales they have in a day or week to track a correlation between the number of people who enter a store and the value of the store’s sales. Tracking the number of customers who come into a store or restaurant daily can also help those companies determine how many staff members to have on the floor at a given time.
Non-profit organizations can use the data collected by people counting devices when applying for grants and other sources of funding. The data collected can provide proof of the need or demand for a particular organization’s services. For example, a library can use the information provided by people counting software to argue for a grant to pay for a renovation or expansion or to allow the library to remain open for longer hours on certain days.
Traf-Sys Can Help Your Company Practice Social Distancing
Social distancing in the workplace involves two things: increasing physical space between employees and customers and limiting the number of people in an area at any time. The number of people who can be in your office building, store or restaurant depends in large part on the size of the space and the occupancy limits set up by your city or county.
Keeping track of how many people are inside your workplace at any time is key to social distancing. Traf-Sys offers people counters that keep track of the number of people who come into a building or designated zone and the number who leave. The counters can be installed at each entrance and exit to give you an accurate sense of how many people are in an area at any time. If your company needs to keep track of the number of individuals in a zone to make sure you are complying with occupancy requirements, people counters let you compare the number of bodies in a room or area to the maximum allowed. Using that information, you can let new people come in or ask them to wait outside until someone leaves.
If you need a way to quickly and easily keep track of the number of people in your space, take a look at our product line to see how we can help. We’re also available to answer any questions you have or to help you choose the software program and hardware that will best meet your needs. Contact us today for a free quote.