Observing shoppers through technology

In our last blog, we talked about manual vs. technology-based observations. As technology has moved on, so have the number of technology-based observation options available. There is no right or wrong technology to use, they all have pros and cons.  To help you decide what works for you, here is a brief overview of how we think you can best utilise these technologies….

Motion sensing technology

One of the more recent technologies used for observing shoppers is Xbox motion sensing technology. A camera connects to an Xbox to capture shoppers, using algorithms to define behaviours. This enables the capture of high volumes of traffic over an extended period (leaving equipment in store for 1-2 months).  Real time data can be transferred directly to a dashboard – allowing you to see instant results. This would be beneficial if you had a new initiative in-store and wanted to see how it was performing against some basic metrics such as conversion, on a day by day basis.

However, this technology needs to be set up on rods attached to the fixture, so it’s not that aesthetically appealing and may not be appreciated by a retailer. It also won’t work well if there is a low ceiling in a store, while it is difficult to determine the exact accuracy and tolerance of the behavioural data captured.

Wi-Fi tracking

Another way of observing behaviours in store is through smart phone Wi-Fi tracking. As the name suggests, it’s a programme that measures shopper movement via tracking the Wi-Fi connection on shoppers smartphones. A series of tracking recorders are placed on the ceiling to triangulate the position of the shopper by tracing the Wi-Fi signal emitting from the shoppers phone as they move through the store.  Typical tracking takes place by recording the shopper position at one second intervals, with recorder numbers and locations dictating accuracy – typically within 4-5 foot. In our opinion, this is great for understanding total store flow and dwell time in smaller sized stores to help create perfect store layouts.  It can also be used to understand window merchandising opportunities by tracking flow in close vicinity to the store

However, Wi-Fi tracking is reliant on smartphone penetration (currently 70-80% in UK), then having Wi-Fi enabled on the phone (c50-60% of smartphone users). The accuracy level of 4-5 foot means it could only be macro space specific rather than at a granular category level, and there is also no link to purchase behaviour to understand the relationship between movement and purchasing.

We would recommend this technology more for retailers than manufacturers – probably more suited outside of FMCG where there is a more pertinent need to understand multiple categories in small spaces and the relationship between movement and purchasing. The technique is ideal for high street retailers, particularly those tech or fashion retailers aimed at younger / more technically savvy shoppers with very high smartphone penetration.

Ceiling mounted video cameras

Then of course there is the use of standard ceiling-mounted cameras. Multiple cameras attached to ceiling or fixtures providing video coverage

of the area.  Video footage is captured of all shoppers within any retail space.  A standard set of codes are then applied as a manual team of watchers record shopper behaviour at a respondent level, which is then aggregated to assess behavioural patterns.

This technology enables you to understand shopping behaviour at both a macro and micro space level to accurately capture shopping styles (grab and go vs consideration), flow in area, hot spots/cold spots and identify potential opportunities for growth. It produces highly accurate data and can be supported with associated questionnaire data to understand the filmed behavioural metrics further. Supportive video clips of behaviours are also a great way of engaging with retailers. Some providers can network the recording to relay footage immediately – allowing for analysis to start without delay.

On the flip side, ceiling mounted cameras require retailer buy in and store permissions to get the fieldwork off the ground.  This can take time. It can also be difficult to live stream data from some field sites, while data protection laws in certain markets mean this approach is not always available.

In our opinion, this technique remains the best tool to understand and assess store/category usage.  The level of detail and ability to tailor exact watching requirements to fit any bespoke requirements make it the gold-standard for analysing shoppers physical behaviour.  It provides real life in the moment data with no research bias.

Get in touch with any questions and feel free to share!

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