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Fall 2012 Counting Customers

App offers “real-time” traffic data.

ipadshot-copy-copyCustomer traffic is the lifeblood of any retail business. Now it is even easier to track how many, when and where those potential customers are concentrating within stores and shopping centers.

Chicago-based ShopperTrak launched its first mobile application in January that allows retailers to access foot-traffic data from their iPhone or iPad. Although the app is an added service for existing ShopperTrak customers, the application also provides a free sample of “The Traffic Report”—a weekly foot-traffic report for even non-ShopperTrak customers. The Traffic Report highlights customer traffic trends in one of 10 top U.S. cities each week.

Founded in 1996, ShopperTrak provides retail intelligence specific to counting and benchmarking foot-traffic at retail stores and shopping centers. The firm currently has more than 500 retail customers and monitors over 40,000 retail stores and mall locations around the world. “We are providing retailers with an important piece of information, which is how many people actually came into the store as opposed to just looking at their transaction log or point-of-sale system,” says ShopperTrak Chief Marketing Officer Ed Marcheselli. “This has been extremely powerful for specialty retailers, because even converting one shopper into a buyer can have significant results for them on the bottom line.”

Since it launched in January, more than 250 customers and another 250 non-customers have downloaded the app. An updated version was to include the addition of a new report geared specifically to mall customers, and make the app available in other languages including Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Portuguese.

ShopperTrak developed the new mobile app to offer its customers real-time access to their data, including three of ShopperTrak’s most popular reports—Key Metrics, Hourly Performance and ShopperTrak Power Hours (peak selling times). Although the app is free, clients who subscribe to the ShopperTrak Managed Service solution typically pay a monthly fee that starts at about $50 to $60 for the monitoring and data reporting services.

Counting customer traffic

ShopperTrak’s sensor devices operate on proprietary video technology that captures anonymous data on the volume of individual shoppers that enter a retail store or zone. The technology is also able to detect the path or direction those shoppers are moving in. The company provides a variety of reporting solutions to help customers analyze the data and apply the results to a range of business operations.

ShopperTrak customers can log in to their customer portal from a computer—and now the mobile app—and view those metrics through a variety of different reports. Retailers can use the data to track people coming into a store or passing within a particular zone for a retail cart or kiosk. Retailers can then compare that data to their own point-of-sale data to determine how many of those potential customers are actually making purchases.

Some retailers use that traffic count data to find the best locations within a shopping center to locate or relocate a store or kiosk. One of the big advantages is helping retailers coordinate staff schedules in conjunction with peak customer traffic. “Our customers also use this data to establish opening and closing times, and to determine whether they are getting a return on their marketing dollars,” says Marcheselli. For example, when one ShopperTrak client installed the technology at its New York store, the retailer found that the store was closing at the busiest time of the entire week.  “They were literally ushering people out of the store at 8 p.m. on a Friday night. So they extended their store closing hours one hour later to account for that traffic,” says Marcheselli.

Another client that sells accessories for teens found that because they were not paying their associates after the closing hour, the associates were doing all of their close-up duties during the last half of hour that the store was open. As a result, the average sales conversion rate dropped from 22% to 4% during that last hour—meaning that only 4 out of 100 customers that walked in actually made a purchase. “So, a simple change in how employees were paid yielded a 10-15% increase in revenue for those stores,” adds Marcheselli.

Ultimately, the ShopperTrak reports allow retailers to compare the traffic count data to their own point-of-sale information to see how successful they are at getting customers to buy. “We appeal to their core business interests, which is ensuring that when a shopper comes into the door, they are able to convert them to a buyer,” says Marcheselli. “The ShopperTrak is a tool that helps retailers determine if they are doing that successfully.”

Custom Clicks

Outdoor-Entrance-Hillcrest-copyCanada’s Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill, Ontario, has a new website that serves up content depending on the customer’s web platform—smartphone, tablet or computer. The website incorporates Responsive Website Design technology which detects the platform the user is on and modifies information formatting accordingly. No special app downloads are necessary.

The new website features a detailed store directory, map of the mall, along with events, contests and employment opportunity listings. To further engage visitors, a section on the website allows visitors to see where fashions and décor used in Hillcrest Mall’s advertising campaigns can be purchased at the centre.

Beth Mattson-Teig

Beth Mattson-Teig is a freelance business writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. She specializes in covering the national commercial real estate industry.

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