People counting is an important part of business management for retailers, as it helps stores determine the number of potential shoppers in their space with the help of a visitor counter. Having a people counter (or door counter, as some call it) installed makes it possible for stores to obtain valuable data on customers’ shopping habits—which in terms helps them serve those customers better!
One of the biggest assets to having a human counter is that it helps stores determine their “peak” hours or days, which opens up a whole world of possibilities for the retailer such as allowing them to measure their retail conversion rate, optimize their staff scheduling, and even gauge the effectiveness of targeted marketing campaigns. In other words, utilizing foot traffic data to drive business decisions helps retailers save time and money, all while using their labor force effectively.
There are many factors that go into the choosing the right people counting system for retail, with variables such as store size, ease of installation, and privacy concerns impacting the type of customer counter best suited to the space.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about people counters & people counting solutions for retailers of all shapes and sizes.
Only 9% of retailers know their stores’ conversion rates.
It’s not enough to know your sales numbers or revenue to understand your store’s overall performance. Conversion rate of customers is a crucial factor in determining the success of your store. Having a people counter in your store, allows retailers to measure conversion rates and learn about store performance.
Retail stores are over or under staffed 86% of the time.
This means that most retailers determine their staff scheduling without foot traffic data. Tackling staffing problems cannot be solved without vital information about your stores door traffic and peak hours. Knowing your store’s daily traffic trends and rethinking your staffing strategy will help you decrease labor costs and increase customer satisfaction.
47% of marketing spend is left unjustified.
There are so many advertising and marketing channels available to retailers, but which one is most effective and profitable for your business? The smartest way to decide where and how to spend your marketing budget is to track your foot traffic and see the correlation.
Put simply, thermal sensors are devices that detect heat. When it comes to door counters, thermal sensors detect the light generated by body heat radiating off people as they walk past the sensor. One of the best advantages of using thermal sensors is that they provide anonymous data regarding the people they track in addition to having low-cost & quick installation ability.
Thermal sensors can suit just about any business that is looking to analyze foot traffic and grow from the data. Their anonymity also makes them a great solution for businesses that may have privacy concerns or must comply with privacy requirements. Businesses that are an ideal match for a thermal sensor include retailers, co-working spaces, offices and other large facilities.
Although prices vary, thermal sensors are typically cheaper than video camera sensors. Dor is a new-generation battery-powered thermal sensor that helps lower installation and maintenance costs for businesses. Not only does the battery only need to be changed every two years, but Dor's thermal sensor can also be installed in minutes. All you have to do is just peel and stick the sensor anywhere you want, and it will start counting people right away. By eliminating the need for technicians as well as installation costs, this type of technology can save businesses a lot of time and effort – especially those with hundreds of stores or ones who can't afford to close temporarily to install a sensor.
Other than the easy and low-cost installation, another great benefit to using a thermal door counter is undoubtedly the anonymity aspect: Not only are the thermal images blurred as compared to a video camera, but thermal sensors also don't rely on obtaining mobile data from visitors, as is the case with WiFi, break-beam and Bluetooth beacons. Thermal sensors are also significantly more accurate than WiFi, break-beam and Bluetooth beacon technologies. Here again, Dor's thermal sensor stands out from the competition, as it was developed using a machine learning algorithm that allows the sensor to constantly learn and get more accurate at counting people each day.
While the privacy factor is critical for many businesses, the anonymous data you get from using a thermal sensor doesn’t let you learn anything about your foot traffic’s demographical data or behaviors. So, this may be a limitation for retailers looking to learn more about their customers, such as their age groups and genders.
Video camera door counters work by identifying people walking through the areas covered by the camera. Although many businesses already have security video cameras in place to cover every corner of their business, video camera sensors are different in that they focus on the foot traffic and actively count humans, including those in large groups, to get an accurate foot traffic count.
Video camera sensors can be used almost anywhere throughout a business. Traditionally, they’re best used in brick-and-mortars, placed near storefronts and doors to track the foot traffic of in-and-outs. Video camera solutions might be a less desired choice for some facility spaces because of their additional installation costs, the need for an external WiFi connection and the potential violation of the privacy of visitors.
There’s a large selection of video camera customer counters on the market, so prices can vary. But video camera sensor technology has a pretty high price tag to start, and that is before you factor in installation, setup and maintenance fees. Generally speaking, video camera sensors require an additional installation cost in 4-figures that requires technicians to visit the desired space multiple times for exploration and installation in addition to calibrating the sensors in the following weeks and months. During those times, they may require to temporarily close the stores to securely complete their operation. All these side factors increase the average cost of video camera sensors.
When tracking foot traffic, you want a solution that is going to be as accurate as possible – and video camera sensors are more accurate than wifi, breakbeam and bluetooth sensors. The only non-video camera sensor in the market that can match their accuracy rates is Dor’s people counting technology. Dor uses machine learning algorithms to increase its accuracy. In addition to accuracy, video camera sensors can give you a picture of who your customers are, allowing you to understand their gender and age and how people interact with your space.
Video camera sensors are pretty complicated to install and require a power outlet. As they're generally powered by electricity, the installation process may be time-consuming and require you to hire a professional. It’s also important to take into consideration the space you want to have covered by the video camera sensors, as many businesses require more than one sensor to really track foot traffic throughout their entire space. Also, unlike the thermal sensors, a video camera technology as a door counter should not be considered by retailers or facilities that have privacy concerns, since video camera sensors cannot 100% comply with privacy laws.
WiFi customer counters count people by connecting with their mobile devices. These sensors rely on the premise that most people's smartphones are set to search for nearby WiFi networks for connection. As people enter a business, a WiFi sensor will detect these devices searching for a WiFi network, enabling it to "count" the number of unique devices and estimate foot traffic based on this data.
WiFi sensors are best suited for businesses with a vast space they want to cover with a sensor. Large retailers and malls are examples of businesses that could benefit from a WiFi sensor.
WiFi sensors may not be the most affordable foot traffic counter on the market, but most businesses only need to purchase one sensor for their entire space. They are also relatively easy to install, with most sensors on the market featuring detailed instructions on setup, eliminating the need for professional assistance.
Through a WiFi door counter, you can measure a lot and gain interesting insights and data on your customers and their shopping habits. For example, you can measure how long a customer spends in your business, track where they spend more time in your business, and tell if they’re returning customers.
WiFi sensors are only accurate if the phone and device settings are right for it. If someone were to turn off the WiFi settings on their device, that person would not be counted in foot traffic data. This makes WiFi sensors highly inaccurate. Furthermore, given the increased privacy and security concerns in the world today, many device manufacturers are changing the way networks are detected by default to protect users from malicious parties, making many WiFi sensors pretty unreliable.
Break-beam sensors work by detecting motion. These sensors send a beam of light that’s invisible to the human eye, and the sensor counts every time the beam of light is crossed. Break-beam sensors count people by understanding that a person will cross the beam of light twice (once as they enter and once when they leave), allowing the sensor to estimate the foot traffic of customers.
Break-beam sensors should be placed in entrances or doorways, and are ideal for businesses that don’t necessarily attract larger groups of people at the same time.
Break-beam customer counter sensors are one of the most affordable sensors on the market, with some basic, small-space sensors costing as low as $2 per set. That said, installation isn’t always straightforward. Depending on the break-beam sensor, some businesses may end up spending more on having someone install the sensor than the cost of the sensor itself.
Besides the price, break-beam sensors are a great solution for small shops and boutiques that want a really basic, easy way to count foot traffic in a really simple way, once installed. Similar to thermal sensors, break-beam sensors also provide businesses with anonymous data.
Break-beam sensors will only work where they’re placed and most sensors need to have a set distance covered by the beam of light. This means break-beam door counter sensors may not even be suitable for all entrances and doorways, only for those with certain dimensions. These sensors also struggle to count people when large groups enter together or when the store is at its busiest, making it a less-than-accurate solution. Last but not least, break-beam sensors only provide data about the number of visitors, which doesn't give businesses any further insight into the behaviors of customers in the long run.
Bluetooth beacons as door counters are small, portable transmitting devices that work by automatically sending Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals to Bluetooth-enabled devices. Many businesses may know of Bluetooth beacons from the world of location technology and proximity marketing. Traditionally, most Bluetooth beacons are used as a marketing tool, allowing businesses to send location-based promotional notifications to customers nearby. However, some businesses use Bluetooth beacons as customer counters, as when connected to a person’s phone, the beacon is able to recognize a unique device and can track it while in the radius of the beacon (i.e. the business’ location).
Bluetooth beacons are great for large spaces such as malls and other public facilities.
Bluetooth beacons are fairly inexpensive. That said, there are many options on the market and the cost may vary based on signal range, battery life and more.
Bluetooth beacons are battery-powered and simple in terms of installation, allowing businesses to get up and running with one of these devices quite quickly. Plus, as a door counter, these devices are portable and can be moved around a space without any hassle.
When using a bluetooth beacon as a door counter, a business is either reliant on visitors' device settings, meaning a bluetooth beacon will be effective only when all customers have their devices turned on with both bluetooth and WiFi enabled. This, in turn, makes Bluetooth beacons a rather inaccurate method of monitoring foot traffic.
Foot traffic, door traffic, store traffic, and customer traffic is the measure of people walking into a physical space such as a retail store, facility, office etc. Simply put, it measures how many people are in a given space at any time.
Collecting foot traffic metrics allows you to start tracking other business metrics such as conversion rate and start optimizing your business activities like employee scheduling and marketing effectiveness.
There are numerous factors that influence the number of people that visit your store every day including seasonality, marketing spending and type of business.
Weather is one of the most important factors to consider. Every location has different weather conditions and they can often drive foot traffic up or down. Location is another prominent factor. It is worth noting how foot traffic is varied in locations in higher density areas versus locations in lesser trafficked places.
Unlike enterprise retailers with hundreds of physical stores, independent retailers (or small businesses - SMBs) usually have between one and five stores.
Independent retailers should be tracking their stores’ foot traffic in order to have an in-depth understanding about their stores’ performance. By integrating a people counter to their POS, small business owners can easily see their conversion rates. Understanding individual store performance, allows them to make strategic and data driven decisions. Moreover, traffic counters show retailers store peak hours in order to optimize staff scheduling.
With dozens or hundreds of stores, enterprise retailers have no choice but to use foot traffic counters to make strategic data driven decisions.
One of the key ways enterprise retailers can utilize a customer counter is by comparing foot traffic and conversion rates across different store locations to see overall performance. With this information, retailers can change retail strategy where needed and determine store openings and closures based on their own foot traffic data.
Some people counters allow you to use their API to connect the traffic data to your own data hubs.
Foot traffic for facilities, offices and buildings can be tracked by the same hardware as retailers, but gather completely different insights.
Building, office and facility owners or managers use people counters to understand how spaces are being occupied and how they can make smarter decisions to optimize space usage. Furthermore, people counting solutions can be used for property and real-estate management decisions as it’s a great way to decrease your costs based on your space usage data.
People counters can also be used for restroom maintenance, lunch area and meeting room usage.
Customer counters help retail businesses measure their stores’ foot traffic and purchasing trends to optimize their operations.
There are numerous people counter technologies on the market including thermal sensors, camera sensors, WiFi sensors, break-beam sensors and bluetooth beacons. Every sensor has its own limitations - price point, accuracy, and installations costs all differ.
Thermal sensors with machine learning algorithms, like Dor, have the highest accuracy rates with reasonable pricing and minimal installation requirements.
It is important to consider the questions your business needs answered before choosing the people counting technology that is best suited for your store.
How long does it take to install the sensor and start tracking the foot traffic? How much does it cost to install and are there any extra costs? Do I have direct control over accessing the data? Can the door counter be integrated with third-party solutions such as POS systems?
There are a lot of people counter options and you deserve to know everything before purchasing the one that is right for you.
At Dor, we know that increasing foot traffic for retailers is a huge challenge.
There are so many different and creative ways to increase retail foot traffic. Set up sandwich boards or creative displays, have an social media influencer promote your location, offer in-store classes and keep up with pop-culture trends when it comes to store design.
Want more ideas? Check out ourlist of 40 different ideas to increase your customer traffic.
In retail, you’ve got to know your traffic and your conversion of that traffic. Without it, you leave way too many things to assumption.
I can actually look at my managers now and say, ‘You dropped six percent in conversions.’ They understand now the cost of people walking out without getting to the register. I’m actually putting financial reasoning behind this stuff.
I just installed another one of our Dor sensors today, took me not even five minutes. I don’t know anybody who couldn’t install it.
So far it’s been incredibly reliable. I have zero complaints and I’m just excited to continue to get data and be able to do something with it.
Our challenge as a 95-store operation, we don’t have a lot of infrastructure to make meaning out of all that data… [when needing to know how many people would be coming through the door] you wind up investing into a tool that would take us into foot traffic warp speed.