In trying to keep up with the latest trends and innovations, many businesses today may dive into the use of new technology without fully understanding what it entails first. While this can sometimes work, the risk of failure remains high, especially if you only rely on third-party providers to do everything for you.
Remember that while you don’t need to be an expert in these things, having at least an intermediate level of understanding gives you the proper background to assess whether a technology works for you or not.
Take people-counting tech, for example. Although many companies use it, there are plenty who still don’t understand what it really is and how it helps grow a business. Partly, this is because the entire system is presented in a complex manner.
To help remedy that, this article provides the simplest possible answers to your more pressing questions on people-counting technology.
1. How do you count people?
In the past, counting people was much simpler and required less equipment. Back then, people-counters only entailed a staff member manning the entrance armed with a clicker.
Basically, the personnel assigned to the task presses the manual counter every time a guest enters the premises.
Over the years, people-counting evolved into a more technology-reliant process and expanded goals.
Modern people-counting uses electronic devices to achieve the same goal as the manual clicker. The only difference is that newer counters that use things like light beams, cameras, and even Wi-Fi can now offer higher accuracy and more data that could help identify an establishment’s areas of improvement and measure the rate of success of their campaigns.
2. Why is people-counting important?
Now that you know how to count people and what people-counters are, you’re probably wondering why it is even important to monitor how many people pass through a building.
The retail industry’s greatest challenges include knowing how many customers visit their establishments within a given period.
The need for it is even more apparent during marketing campaigns for a store’s grand opening. In this example, the most important key performance indicator (KPI) is the number of people who visited the new establishment. This is where footfall counting swoops in and saves the day.
There are many other reasons and a broad range of applications for people-counting.
For one, the total people count a business gets can also be considered as the number of opportunities they had within a day. Divide that by the purchases for the same period, and you’ll get how many people bought from the store.
In short, people-counters tell you how well your business turns opportunities into sales.
From there, you can combine data from customer footfall with other factors to measure and improve the store’s performance in key areas. Among the things you can measure and improve are:
- Optimum staff scheduling
- Low-performing hours of the day
- Sales volumes
- Underperforming brands or stores
- Marketing campaign effectiveness
3. How accurate are people-counters?
The accuracy of people-counting greatly depends on the technology it uses. As you may have guessed, manual counting is much more prone to errors compared to electronic ones, though the latter still isn’t 100 percent precise.
Below are some of the electronic people-counting options businesses still use today and their respective levels of accuracy:
Infrared Beam Counters
Deemed as the simplest form of electronic people-counting, the infrared beam counter involves having a single horizontal beam running across an entrance. In many cases, the infrared device is connected to a small LCD display that shows the entrance tally (much like the numbers on the manual clickers).
Every time a passing guest breaks the beam, one count is added to the number on the display.
If the building doesn’t have a separate exit way, the establishment can get the number of visitors for the day by dividing the end-of-day total count by two.
Most beam counters need a second component that acts as a receiver usually mounted opposite the beam source to create a straight line.
The device is built to count single individuals passing through an entryway, which means wide and busy entrances could have a less accurate people count. Since the passage allows two or more people to pass simultaneously, some guests might get missed and not recorded in the count.
Despite these limitations, many establishments still use infrared beam counters because of their simplicity and low cost. Overall, this type of people counting technology offers 60 to 80 percent accuracy.
Thermal counters use technology that detects heat. They detect light generated by the heat radiating off of people’s bodies as they walk past the sensor.
For optimum measurement, thermal sensors are placed overhead.
However, the accuracy of this type of people-counter can be a bit challenging to measure, especially since they aren’t equipped to factor in people’s dwell time in store entrances beyond a couple of seconds.
On average, thermal counters have an accuracy of about 80 to 85 percent.
Video Camera Sensors
Video cameras have a more straightforward counting system. Basically, they work by identifying the people who pass by the areas within the device’s coverage.
Take note, however, that this isn’t the same as security cameras that cover every corner of the premises. Video sensors used for people-counting focus more on foot traffic, which means they actively count humans rather than record videos.
Still, this particular technology has one of the highest accuracy rates at 80 to 95 percent. It is deemed the better solution for busy areas because of its precision even when used in crowded spaces, like in an airport.
Wi-Fi Sensor Counters
Wi-Fi-based people-counting technology counts visitors by summing up the total number of mobile devices that search for a nearby Wi-Fi connection within the premises.
Once a person enters the building, the sensor detects his device as it seeks for the network to connect to, then adds that unique device to the count used to estimate foot traffic.
The accuracy of this type of people-counting technology varies greatly depending on the size of the establishment. Plus, it also comes with a drawback.
Basically, they use people’s reliance on the internet and their mobile devices to get foot traffic data in a store. This means that Wi-Fi sensors are only accurate if all the visitors set their devices to search Wi-Fi.
In other words, if a person turns off the Wi-Fi connectivity on his device, he won’t be included in the foot traffic count.
And given the increased concern on cybersecurity and privacy today, even the mobile device manufacturers are already changing the default settings in their products to protect users, rendering some Wi-Fi sensors unreliable.
Take note that some people-counting service providers combine different sensors and integrate artificial intelligence to overcome the individual drawbacks of the people-counting devices.
Count People, Measure Success
The primary goal of people-counting solutions is to measure success, be it a one-off campaign or an entire business. Understand how they work using this article as a guide and make the most out of the data they provide to help your business grow.