Daily Dose of iQ: Beyond Foot Traffic -- Location Tracking for Physical Stores

Apr 10, 2012 — Allan Pulga

With the rise of e-commerce over the past decade, following web analytics related to sales conversions has become a standard practice. Similarly, brick-and-mortar retailers have long used different methods of tracking foot traffic into their stores, comparing that data with sales figures to come up with appropriate staffing strategies.

Now, a new report by Jennifer Hicks at Forbes (April 8) looks at the vast potential for tracking more advanced physical location data.

"In the physical space of bricks and mortar retail, people are still walking around malls and retail spaces with their mobile phones glued to their hands, leaving 'fingerprints' of where they are going, creating patterns of behavior –- a virtual data boom and no one is tracking it," she wrote.

"In other words, there are no tools, no web analytics, no turn key solutions that are applied to the physical space in order to get that person from dwell time into that store to make a purchase."

According to Frank Schuil, CEO of Qubulus, a new indoor positioning company that generates actionable web analytics, there is a gold mine of data at the store and aisle level that can be used to power advertising. Having the right data, he says, can help you decide how to reach customers and "convert their dwell time to purchase time."

Hicks explains that Qubulus tracks shoppers' mobile phones within the physical space (in the video below, the system tracks their movement in a mall). "With Qubulus, this movement and positioning of shoppers can be captured and analyzed so the retailer can have better insight into where shoppers are and how to pull them into the stores they pass or will pass."

Hicks says tracking shoppers' movements allows retailers to a) drive real-time store traffic via mobile apps (Hello, omnichannel experience!) and b) collect location data to analyze and optimize the retail space and its staffing levels.

Back in December, my colleagues and I came across a different way of tracking shoppers' in-store movements: Argentina's Agile Route was using Microsoft Kinect technology with heat sensors and 3D spatial recognition to see which shelves and and items were most appealing to customers. The technique "effectively (added) a Google Analytics-like dimension to their product displays," wrote Amar Toor of Engadget (Dec. 7).

Regardless of the technology used to track shoppers' movements, the advantages are clear. Retailers should stay tuned for more developments in this space as they become more affordable and accessible -- best to leverage this technology before the competition does.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce, Retail Marketing

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