The Ultimate Guide To People Counting

Table of Contents

People Counting Process

People counting technology allows you to simply keep track of the number of people that enter a given area at any given time. At Traf-Sys, we have taken the basic analog person counter concept and made it digital. Our digital people counter is not only fast, efficient and automatic, but it also allows you to collect much more and more useful data than merely the number of people who have entered the area.

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Understand Pedestrian Traffic At Each Entrance & Exit

Our pedestrian counters are designed to count each person who walks through the area where the sensor is set up as one person. Because you are usually only concerned with how many people are entering your facility, not how many are leaving, you will need either a bi-directional patron counter that can tell the difference, or you will want to divide your total count at the end of the day by two — since, presumably, everyone who enters eventually leaves.

You should be sure to put one of our pedestrian counters at every entrance where a person may access the customer-facing portion of your facility. Also, do not forget that a horizontal people counter has difficulty registering two people who enter at the exact same time, so if your entrances are wide enough to accommodate multiple people at once, you will want to be sure to install an overhead person counter.

Retail environments come in many different sizes and configurations, from intimate boutiques to mega-sized superstores. People counting requirements can also vary widely, from simply tallying how many people come through the door to highly detailed mapping of customer movement. Fortunately, there are a wide range of technologies designed to fit a variety of location types, business needs and budgets.

Mounting Locations For Your People Counting Technology

The layout of your facility will influence where your sensors are mounted. Entrance width, door type and ceiling height are important variables to consider when selecting your system.

Horizontal Wired/Wireless Counting Systems

These people counting systems are the most basic and least expensive option. They can be mounted on a door frame to measure foot traffic coming into your business.

Independent boutiques, single-door gift shops, and smaller retail locations have found great success using horizontal people counting solutions. These systems offer solid basic data on overall foot traffic, and can reveal which times of day or which days of the week generate more foot traffic than others. Business owners have been able to use data from horizontal solutions to adjust their staffing levels so they have the right personnel on hand based on their needs.

  • PROS: Horizontal people counter systems are best for smaller physical establishments with a relatively low density of people moving through at any given time.
  • CONS: The accuracy of these systems is affected by entrance width limitations and possible prolonged blocking of the beam by lingering customers, which may lead to missed counts.

Overhead Traffic Counting Systems

This type of people counting solution is a great option for retailers who require greater accuracy when counting customer traffic. Data from the solution can be fed into analytics software, which maps traffic zones throughout your store. This data is valuable when placing promotional displays or determining staffing needs.

  • PROS: Greater accuracy than horizontal systems and ability to differentiate between adults and children.
  • CONS: Depending on your business’ needs, you may need to use a combination of technologies to reach the level of accuracy you need for your data to be useful.

Types Of People Counting Sensor

As technology advances, facility managers have access to multiple types of sensors for collecting data. Every sensor has its advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to work with a people counting expert when making your selections.

Infrared Beam Counters (IR People Counters)

This systems project a horizontal infrared beam across the entrance. The people counter records each “break” of the beam as a single customer as they cross the entrance threshold.

  • PROS: It’s a less expensive option for basic applications, and it’s also quick and easy to install.
  • CONS: The beam range is limited, and these systems are not the best options for wider entrances.

Thermal Counting Sensors

This system uses heat from customer’s bodies to track when they enter and move about your store. The accuracy is very high with this people counting solution especially in areas with a lot of ambient light. It also works well in low light areas, which is beneficial for security and loss prevention. Similar to the horizontal counters, thermal people counting systems can be wireless, but unlike the aforementioned system, the ranges of thermal sensors can be extended to fit almost any layout or building size with the use of repeaters.

  • PROS: It provides accurate data on multidirectional movement of customers inside and outside your store. Wide entrances are covered with a high degree of accuracy. In fact, the accuracy of thermal overhead sensor technology is at or above 95%.
  • CONS: Thermal sensors are more expensive because of the enhanced technology. The lower resolution and field of vision make it harder to distinguish between adults and children, which may affect demographic accuracy. Also, the customers must be in motion for the sensor to capture their signal. External weather conditions may also inhibit sensor accuracy.

Video-Based Overhead Sensors

This type of system is ceiling-mounted and uses video to track customer foot traffic in your business. They work best in consistent lighting environments and provide highly detailed information about customers entering and moving around your establishment.

  • PROS: They are able to cover a wide area when combined with multiple video-based units. You can capture video remotely using a laptop or tablet connected to the internet. This technology also has the ability to filter carts, children, and strollers, providing a more accurate count of actual shoppers versus total number of people in the store.
  • If the power were to go out, these systems are equipped with a flash memory that can store up to ten days’ worth of data.Software upgrades are easy for video-based overhead sensors and can also adjust to lighting and weather changes.
  • CONS: Video-based systems are more expensive than infrared and thermal people counters. Shadows, backgrounds and inconsistent light levels can affect the accuracy of these systems.

Ready to choose the people counter that is right for you? Get a free quote today and we’ll get one installed in your business. 

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Why Is People Counting Useful?

What types of insights can come as a result of foot traffic counting? In fact, the value of foot traffic counting data can be massively significant for your business. Just a few of them include:

Deployment Strategy: Just a one-half percent increase in foot traffic can mean an increase in profits of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large chain. If you are managing a retail store, a retail traffic counter can tell you when the most customers are likely to be in your store, so you can have more employees on hand at that time, improving customer service and making more sales possible. You can also choose these times to bring out new or more expensive inventory and make other useful decisions based on this data.

Monitor traffic flow: People counting systems are especially useful during holiday sales times to make sure the stores are not overcrowded and also to monitor traffic flow inside the store. Once the shopper is inside a store, a people counting system with heat mapping technology can be used to see how they shopped, which ways they traversed the aisles and what displays they lingered in front of and for how long. This technology is useful when testing out new floor and display configurations and other in-store promotional tools, like digital signage. Knowing how shoppers flow through your retail space will help you ensure that you have displays with the most sought-after items at the front of the store or in an easily found location.

Marketing Feedback: Evaluate the success of marketing campaigns with a reliable customer counting system. Too often, businesses feel like their marketing efforts are successful when they are not. A digital person counter can provide hard, undeniable data on whether or not your marketing strategy is resulting in greater traffic. If it’s not, you can end that strategy or promotion, saving you untold amounts of money. If it is working, you can build upon those efforts.

Staffing Decisions: Is your business really benefiting from being open 24 hours? Are you paying a full staff during dead periods where no one is in your store? One of the most basic functions of a people counting system is to tell you when people enter and exit your business and at what times. A Traf-Sys digital people counter can provide you with the data you need about specific periods, letting you know when the entire team is needed and when you can get by with paying only a skeleton crew, or even by closing during those hours.
Security: People counting information can let you know when the highest foot traffic times are, and hence, the most important times to have a strong security presence. Not only will this be better for the overall safety of your establishment, but it can also help you save money by not paying for extra security during times when you do not need it.

Who Can Benefit From People Counting?

It is our experience that any business that relies on physical customers or patrons can benefit significantly from people counting hardware. This includes places like shopping malls and retail stores, stadiums, casinos and concert halls. Visitor counting can also be extremely useful in areas where knowing attendance can affect policy and funding, such as:

  • Non-Profit Ventures: Visitor counting information can be used as data for funding requests, letting donors know how frequently the non-profit venture is being used and lending support to requests for expansion funds.
  • Libraries: Use our sensors to determine how many people are visiting the library relative to how many books people check out, providing important data about circulation rates. This can help you know how many books you need to order/keep in stock and what your staffing needs are.
  • Student Unions and Other School Buildings: Let university management know how often students and/or faculty are using the Student Union and other school buildings — and how many people are using them — for use in staffing decisions, expansion plans, budget appropriation and other strategic decisions.

Get Started With A People Counting Solution From Traf-Sys

People counting technology is an increasingly powerful tool for retailers looking to test different marketing strategies, identify showrooming risks and maximize revenue. Data analysis from people counters can provide valuable insights that retailers can leverage to improve their business. Available in a variety of forms to suit each retailer’s need, these systems are proving to be critical to retailers looking to stay successful and relevant in such a competitive market.

Choosing the right type of people counter for your business or organization will mean more accurate data and, ultimately, a greater return on investment.


The experts at Traf-Sys are ready to provide you with the information on the various types of people counters available and help you design a solution that gets you the results you need.

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