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How Customer Counter Technology Works For Organizations And Stores (Part 1)

Buying a people counter is often considered a long term investment. It is now widely accepted that an accurate and reliable traffic count is a key metric in the world of retail and shopping centers. Most large retailers have at least one technology installed, and if you ask them, most...
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Buying a people counter is often considered a long term investment. It is now widely accepted that an accurate and reliable traffic count is a key metric in the world of retail and shopping centers. Most large retailers have at least one technology installed, and if you ask them, most would tell you they cannot run their business without it.

Although people counters are now mainstream, it is still difficult to find buying guides, guidelines or tips on what people counting technology is needed in your store. My goal today is to change that and give you all the information you need on what can be a confusing topic for some retailers.

While I write this article I’ll reference our products, but only do so occasionally, so that this can become a go to reference on people counting solutions. I want to present to you what I’ve learned in the last ten years testing different technologies, supporting customers, and speaking with them about their experiences.

Let’s split the analysis in to two scenarios:

  1. if you are not counting
  2. if you are already counting but want to change your current solution

What if you’re not people counting?

retail store customer information

If you are not counting and want to start, then I wholeheartedly believe you are making a great business decision. I encourage you to visit our Benefits page and watch our video if you need one final push, as it outlines all the data on the benefits of people counting solutions. If you have done that, then please read on.

Defining your budget is the usual place to start and “the price” is usually the first question we get. The answer really is “it depends” on many factors and what type of people counting system you are looking for. You can find very basic do-it-yourself made-in-china counters on eBay and Amazon and some of them will go for less than $100. However, we’ve tested some of them and they were not very accurate nor reliable. They can count, but they usually come with the following problems:

  • Limited support: This means if it does not work, you should expect to wait a long time to get the problem resolved.
  • No software or limited software:Only some of these devices have a small LCD screen that you can use to check your traffic.
  • Only works in certain scenarios and they may not tell you openly. For example, a beam sensor needs to be placed so that the door does not block the beam when it opens. If not you are counting the door, and sometimes because of the window, you’ll count the door twice in one pass.

The bottom line is that if you have absolutely no budget there are some options there for you but you should be aware that they usually have very limited functionality, accuracy and reliability. If you want better options, they will cost you more.

This brings us to a more important point of how much money you are leaving on the table because you have almost no visibility on the traffic in your store. In most cases the answer is a lot, and you don’t even know it. The reason is that if you do not measure your traffic, then you most likely will not know how many opportunities you are not converting which are already in your store.

The usual counter point to this is that you can count traffic manually, and since you are in the store so often you know your traffic. This is where I need to be blunt and outline why human beings are the worst and most expensive people counting device. It is extremely hard for a person to focus on looking at a door and count accurately for an extended period of time. It is also extremely hard for a person to not mix emotions into this and they often perceive things incorrectly. It is the combination of emotions and incorrect perceptions that results in thinking you are converting close to 50% of your traffic. It is possible to convert 50% of your traffic, but in most cases it is lower, and often shockingly lower than that.

People Counting: Return on Investment


Our Quick ROI Calculator

Enter your values, and for the pricing of the equipment put $2000. That is usually a reasonable starting rate for a good solution and its related expenses (installation, software, software set-up, etc…). When asked for your conversion, take whatever number you have mind, and divide it by 2. (We are going to assume you are too generous with yourself). Then look at how many weeks it will take to pay back a reliable and accurate system and you will find that it is not many at all. Of course, this assumes you are going to DO something about your results.


Thought bubble : To People Count or not to People Count

Everyone is a combination of excited and fearful to know what his or her conversion will be once they have the device installed. The truth is that your starting number does not matter, but initially, it is entirely understandable that most do not realize this point. Maybe you’ll be happy about your initial conversion rate but most of the time people are not. This is usually where our technical support department gets emotional calls telling us that what we sell is worthless, that there is no way, etc. The bottom line is once it’s validated to be working, people who still do not “get it” will start outlining all that is wrong with the counts such as:

  • My customers shop in couples/by group/ by family and the counter only counts individuals, so my conversion rate is MUCH higher than this ! (By the way, some counters can count groups, more on this later)
  • It is not filtering staff, my team goes in and out ALL the time, so my conversion rate is MUCH higher than this! (More on screening out employees later)
  • We get delivery people, postman, boyfriends or girlfriends of staff who come by and they’re counted too but they are not real customers, so my conversion rate is MUCH higher than this (You guessed it, more on that later)

You’ll move past all of this and once you “get it”.You will realize that your conversion rate is where you are now; your starting point. Regardless of the number of people you may never convert as they are part of a “buying group”, you still have a significant opportunity to improve. Go back to the ROI calculator, how much more money do you get if you improve your conversion rate by 0.5% or 1%? What if after a few years you increase it by 5%-10%? The answer, by the way, is a lot.

Now the goal of all this blah-blah (it is important nonetheless!) is to show that reliable traffic data is of great value, and sometimes, going for the cheapest option is not the best choice to make. Now that I have explained all that, we will move on to the different solutions and the “technical stuff” in part 2.

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