For years a battle has been raging over the field of presence analytics. Businesses want in-store metrics to track visitors like they do website traffic, and several new technologies have risen to the task. Only 1 method is supreme, and we’ll break down how each technology works to show you the winner.
The 6 Methods of Automated Detection
There are 6 ways to track foot traffic:
- Beam Counters
- Video cameras
- Floor Sensors
- Thermal Images
Each method has its strengths and weaknesses.
Beam counters work by counting every person that walks into an entrance. 2 boxes placed in an entryway form an invisible beam. When a visitor breaks the beam, it adds 1 count to the day’s total. More advanced beam counters can detect the direction of travel, and thus estimate how many people come in and leave at what times. Beam counters are also very good at detecting fast moving targets. Beam counters cannot adequately track visitor flow or dwell time throughout a space. They also cannot track an individual or tell how often they return.
Video Cameras / Facial Recognition:
A single well-placed camera can cover the entrance of a door. An employee can view the video footage and get a good deal of information for a specific point in time. Information such as demographics, visitor flow through a building, and general visitor counts can be seen with video cameras. Advanced AI algorithms are also now taking that feed and finding individual people with up to 98% accuracy depending on the technology. Facial recognition is an advanced and inexpensive way to track visitors, and see visitor demographics, but it does have its drawbacks. Right now video algorithms cannot uniquely identify individuals to a store overtime unless they are a celebrity. This means that they cannot detect return-rate or total dwell time information for the business. This technology will improve over time and is being closely watched in the Presence Analytics industry.
Security Cameras vs. Video Cameras? Security Cameras are an excellent tool for any business that invites the public in, but they are not designed to perform foot traffic analysis. The placement of cameras should be designed for security, not just traffic flow. To get the best results from video counting, get dedicated cameras.
Floor Sensors are a very accurate way to provide detailed information on traffic flow. Store owners can gather exact positioning and dwell times, and view where customers linger and travel throughout a space. Floor and pressure sensors are also very good at monitoring fast moving targets, for example runners or bikers on a path. There are 2 significant drawbacks: installation and demographics. Ripping up flooring is a massive project, and floor sensors are probably a better fit for new construction. They also cannot identify users. Floor sensors cannot give information about repeat visitors or tie social media accounts to traffic numbers.
Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are a new technology that has quickly revolutionized location analytics. Beacons can be used to push location-based information to apps, and to track users down to the meter within a space. They offer tremendous opportunity both in analytics and in contextual advertisements. For all their benefits, beacons have 1 major drawback: they require the user to download an app before a location can gather any information on them. Since most consumers are hesitant to download new apps, this is a significant obstacle for businesses to tackle.
Thermal imaging is a non-intrusive and accurate way of gathering visitor counts. A sensor is placed on the ceiling and spots visitors by temperature. Thermal traffic counters can be more accurate at counting groups, identifying children vs adults, and can give brief descriptions of dwell time within a camera range. However, they cannot uniquely identify visitors, so they cannot spot repeat visitors, track dwell times through a store, or see paths.
WiFi networks can analyze foot traffic because WiFi-enabled devices send out AP Probes. Access Points use AP Probes to connect the device to the WiFi network. Access Points can see all WiFi devices in the local area, regardless of whether or not they are connected to the WiFi network. User position is triangulated as visitors move around a space by using a router that records AP Probes and an Analytics program like Who’s On My WiFi. Visitors are individually identifiable by the MAC address of their smartphone. This means that their return rate can be tracked on top of where they go in the store. This MAC address can also be anonymized before it ever goes to analytics platforms to ensure visitor privacy. The main weakness to this method is that the business access points must be capable of sharing AP probe information. Also, some smartphone manufacturers are anonymizing the AP Probes before the information can be collected.
WiFi has 5 primary advantages to all other forms of visitor detection
-Identify returning visitors
-Track position throughout a space
-Passively gather information without an app
-Can deploy with existing access points, with no new equipment or expensive renovation
-Ability to do omni-channel outreach to connected visitors.
About omni-channel outreach:
When visitors join the WiFi at a location, demographic and contact information about the visitor can be relayed to the business owner. This can be achieved by requiring visitors to login to the WiFi with their social media login credentials. Receiving this contact information allows for omni-channel outreach after the visitor has left the space.
No solution is one-size-fits-all, and many businesses will not have a network compatible with the latest WiFi analytics software. The value added is clear; knowing the return rate and demographics of brick and mortar audience over time with the ability to do omni-channel and personalized pre-sales and outreach is the holy grail of marketing.
Right now nothing does it better than WiFi.
Who’s On My WiFi helps tie together all of your location analytics to give you business insights that improve your space. If you’d like to learn more, contact us for a demo of how our product can help.