It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar retail is playing a high-stakes game of catchup against its online counterparts. It can seem like digital marketplaces have so many built-in advantages to running their businesses through the Internet — a medium where detailed data on shoppers is the rule, not the exception — that physical retailers might as well close doors rather than try to beat online merchants at their own game.
However, Placemeter and its CEO, Alexandre Winter, take a different tack when it comes to in-store data collection: If you can’t beat online stores on the data front, join them.
That’s where the Sensor comes in. Though released just a few weeks ago in early December, Winter explained that the video-based foot traffic monitoring device is already so popular with retailers that it’s sold out its entire first batch. What could possibly drive that kind of interest? According to Winter, Placemeter’s Sensor is both accurate and flexible, which holds great appeal for the diverse field of in-store retail.
“We bring a solution to the market today that’s extremely versatile and easy to set up,” Winter said. “The Sensor can be set up in five minutes and gives very high accuracy with video.”
Instead of other in-store traffic monitors that focus on the big picture — i.e., collecting data of an entire day and compiling heatmaps to show trends — Placemeter’s Sensor, which can face either into or out of the store, tracks each individual shopper’s habits. This might seem like a technical detail, but it makes all the difference — rather than providing overviews of where customers spend their time in store, the Sensor can provide to-the-number breakdowns of how many customers spent how long at designated in-store locations.
Combined with the Sensor’s ability to provide in-store retailers with anonymized, yet detailed profiles of shoppers, Winter believes that this blend of real-time monitoring and granular data can be invaluable.
“Heatmapping is frankly different,” Winter said. “You won’t understand the structure of where people are going in the store. What we do is based on not visualizing anything but counting and extracting reliable numbers. Instead of giving retailers an indicator that this area was red or blue, the Sensor can tell them that there were exactly 105 people in that part of the store that day or that hour, and the precision of the count is usually around 90 percent.”
With a more accurate way of monitoring shoppers comes more targeted uses of the Sensor. Winter explained that one of the defining features of Placemeter’s tech is the ability to help in-store retailers categorize just what kind of foot traffic is happening around their locations. While 105 people may walk by a storefront in an hour, how many of those people are possible conversions, and how many are just interested in getting on with their days? Thanks to the Sensor’s video-based tracking system, retailers can monitor walking paces, time spent browsing window displays and even which passersby return regularly. In this case, the Sensor saves in-store retailers time and money by making sure they’re targeting their efforts on only the customers who exhibit behaviors conducive to a shopping mentality.
In the short time that Placemeter and Winter have had to test Sensor in real world situations, they’ve already seen impressive results. Winter explained that in addition to the in-store monitoring component, Dylan’s Candy Bar has tapped Placemeter to scout potential locations for expansion in New York City. Preliminary human scouting found two possible candidate sites around Union Square, but only the Sensor was able to make sense of the human waves of data.
“They set up Sensors at both locations for a little less than a week and realized that, yes, there’s more foot traffic at one location, but they’re mostly walking pretty fast or they’re mostly commuters,” Winter explained. “These are not potential buyers for Dylan’s Candy Bar. The other location had less foot traffic comparatively but more traffic in off-peak hours. They ended up buying the second, cheaper location, saving money and getting better traffic in the process.”
It’d be an understatement to say that Placemeter ended 2015 on a high note, but Winter explained that 2016 could start with just as big of a bang. Because Placemeter is still relatively young, the team has been focusing on polishing its Sensor product more so than developing features around it. Those will be coming hard and fast in Q1 2016, alongside a new and larger batch of actual Sensors, Winter said.
“This time, we’re going to make enough of them.”