When to Choose an Overhead People Counter vs. a Horizontal People Counter

In today’s retail environment, information is power. People counting technologies can offer significant, actionable data about customer traffic and behavior in your store. However, with a range of solutions available on the market, how can you determine if overhead or horizontal people counters are the right fit for your retail business?

Horizontal people counters are the most affordable solution available and provide a great way for retailers to get started with these kinds of technologies. They come in wired and wireless infrared sensor options, are mounted in your store’s doorway, and count incoming shoppers as they “interrupt” the sensor beam upon crossing the store threshold. Horizontal people counters are a good fit for small retail businesses because they:

  • Work best in stores with smaller entrances. Multiple people may enter a store with a large doorway at one time. When this happens, the horizontal people counter may only count three people when six shoppers actually entered.
  • Offer solid basic data on overall store foot traffic. Horizontal people counters are limited in that they monitor people entering your store but cannot provide insights into where shoppers go during their store visit.
  • Require the lowest financial investment. Horizontal people counters are a cost-effective solution for budget-minded small retailers.
  • Reveal which times of day and which days of the week generate the greatest foot traffic. Equipped with this information, smaller businesses can adjust their staffing levels accordingly to ensure they have the right personnel on hand to convert browsers into buyers.

Overhead people counters are a step up from horizontal people counters in terms of the breadth of information and insights they can yield and may be an ideal solution for retailers looking to elevate their business strategies. Some overhead systems leverage thermal sensors while others rely on video. Thermal people counters:

  • Leverage body heat to track shopper movements into and around your store
  • Work well in buildings with wide entrances in which multiple shoppers may be entering simultaneously
  • Offer 95% accuracy or greater
  • Function well in direct sunlight as well as in poor lighting, unlike video people counter systems.

Video-based overhead people counters leverage multiple sensors mounted throughout the store ceiling and require the greatest investment but offer the deepest data. These counters:

  • Can improve the count accuracy by differentiating between adults, children, and service animals, as well as filtering out objects such as strollers and carts, especially in large-format stores with a high volume of shoppers.
  • Reveal where shoppers go when they enter your store. Are shoppers clustered in only a few departments and bypassing others altogether? With this knowledge, retailers can adjust their merchandising strategies accordingly to generate greater traffic in underutilized store areas or shift promotional displays to areas where people are already going.
  • Provide concrete insights on A/B testing. If your store wants to experiment with new display layouts, video-based people counters can capture how shoppers respond to display A versus display B.
  • Offer secure remote access and data storage. Store management can access data from video-based overhead people counters via Web-connected devices.
  • Enhance loss prevention activities. Video-based overhead people counters can help to reveal different types of retail loss, from shoplifting to employee theft and returns fraud.
  • Require greater IT installation and integration time. Consider whether your store has the resources to properly implement and utilize a video-based system.

Overhead people counters offer significant ROI for retailers seeking a robust technology solution to their traffic-counting needs, though some may find that a combination of overhead and horizontal counters provides the greatest benefit and insights for their particular budget. Selecting the right people counting solution is the first step toward higher conversion rates, growing sales, and creating effective marketing programs.