How counting people can improve the retail experience

“What you can’t measure you can’t manage and what gets measured can be improved” – Peter Drucker

This saying from the famous business management consultant and author Peter Drucker, is as true today as it was when he said over 30 years ago. With the current challenging economic conditions in South Africa the retail industry that has been hard hit by the stringent austerity measures of government. In order to remain competitive, it is important that good business decisions are made with the support of reliable, real time information. Knowing when and how many people are walking into your building, shopping centre or trading area is becoming vital in making informed business decisions.. What if you could compare the foot traffic with the weather trends in real time or the actual impact of your ad spend on the number of prospective customer coming into your store?
What if you could see on which day, and which hour of the day, you have the most customers in your store and could compare that with each of your stores around the country and then compare that information to your branch sales figures?

Real time access to this type of information can help retail owners or mall and hotel management make better business decisions. Historically counting foot traffic was a rather manual affair of engaging the services of a few students with hand held clickers to press every time someone walked passed them, hoping that they were actually focused on the task at hand. Then came the advent of semi-automatic counters with a beam across the entrance that captured the information of passing customers with the data then stored locally on some sort of data capture device. All of these solutions whilst providing some information, was produced in isolation and required a lot of manual ‘number juggling’ before one was able to make any useful decisions with the data. The time between captured data and meaningful business intelligence also meant that these solutions were unable to provide real time business information that could be quickly implemented.

As a result after the initial enthusiasm of the new gadget, there was seldom enough motivation or useful information to make any meaningful business decisions. Fortunately things have progressed since then thanks to the ever evolving role that technology is playing in all areas of business.

With ever improving data communications and the open nature of technology in which hardware and software devices connect to each other a new technological phase enters the frame and brings with it new opportunities, such as Digital transformation, digital disruption and the Internet of things, not too mention Block chain too! Retailers are expected to know about new technologies to help them make better business decisions with the ultimate goal of being more profitable, and are expected to use technological advancements to improve their businesses, but seldom have a partner to “hold their hand” through the process. As with most technological advances, this type of solution is becoming more cost effective and adding more business value. Some of the challenges that come from having so much data available, is knowing what to measure and making sense of the mountain of information that’s captured. The role of a strong technology partner to be there and to hold your hand through this experience is important.

The right technology partner will spend time understanding their client’s requirements and design a solution to capture and report on information that is relevant to their business. As retail margins come under pressure, it’s the responsibility of the retailers or property managers to better understand their clients and their business’s flow and then use this information to offer a more valuable and richer retail experience.

Fortunately when it comes to people counting and trend monitoring this is all now being made possible with newer technologies, and getting the information that you require is limited only by your imagination and a good partner who understands that part of the technology world and can assist you. So before you rush out and google for the cheapest people counting product on the market, engage with someone who can discuss your current and future business specific requirements with and let them help you design a solution that will work both in the short term and then grow with you into the future to help improve your business.

Mike Pickering is the MD of UKUTETA IT SOLUTIONS (Pty) Ltd. and Count us In a division of Ukuteta that focuses on the People counting and trend monitoring market. Mike has many years of IT experience and is passionate about the evolution of technology and the ever increasing role that it can play in all facets of business to make companies more effective and profitable. Website: Ukuteta Countusin

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