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The Evolution of People Counting

Retail counting, then and now.

Why counting people is important in retail:

Knowing the number of people who are in and around your store will give you an unfair advantage over your competition.


Having accurate counts of your daily visitors and passerby traffic each day allows you to spot trends in visitor behaviour and measure return on investment of in-store display changes. Knowing how long visitors stay in your store, and how often they return is even more valuable. Historically, getting an accurate count of the number of people walking into your store each day meant hiring someone employed to solely, manually count visitors. Luckily these days there are a few different technologies that remove the need for the expensive manual count.

A history of people counting in Retail:

After manual counting, the first generation of counting technology, consisted of Infrared Beam counters. These are small devices fitted to either side of the door. They send a beam of infrared light across the entrance which counts the breaks in the beam as visitors pass  through. The major issue with these is that they miss people walking side by side, counting them as just one person. Many also don’t give direction of travel, entering or leaving which makes the count confusing to analyse.

The second generation technology was thermal counting. These sensors detect body heat. The major issue with these is that they are expensive to install, fine tune and maintain.

Then came video counting. Video is time consuming to utilise, expensive to install fine tune and maintain, and don’t work well in low lit shops.

The latest generation which also happens to be the best is Wi-Fi counting.

Wi-Fi Shopper Counting Technology:

The Wi-Fi counting method is gaining popularity in retail due to its high accuracy, and ease of use. It offers numerous metrics to retailer: store front window conversion, visitor duration, returning customers and cross (store) shopping.

Store front window conversion measurement is the ratio of people passing by your store compared to the number of people entering the store. This allows retailers to measure the effectiveness of their window displays. Visitor duration allows retailers to monitor how long, on average, people spend inside the store. Returning customer measurement allows the retailer to see how often the same customers return to the store, and how long, on average, between visits. Finally, cross shopping measurement allows retailers to measure the number of people visiting individual branches of the retailer’s chain, which gives them an indication of shopper loyalty.

Given all these advantages, Wi-Fi sensors are set to become the dominant force in retail in-store analytics and measurement.


Think: If you don’t know what’s going on in your stores, how can you improve it? Will understanding your customers better really help improve you business on multiple levels? What small changes can I make immediately to improve business outcomes? It's important for you, as a retailer, to think outside the box and to understand what types of counting changes can make a difference over the long term, not just today and tomorrow. 

In our next post we’ll talk a bit more about the people counting data and how it can be used.


You can follow us on twitter at @KeplerAnalytics, call us: 1800 300 892 or email us at: At Kepler we believe that privacy is most important. Secondly, understanding your foot traffic, sales conversion, window conversion and visual merchandising is the start to bridging the gap between the physical and digital. Understanding your customer behaviour can help you understand what types of communications are working. Linking your foot traffic to digital and traditional marketing campaigns will allow you to see how your marketing efforts actually affect sales. As always, do your research and use a solution that helps you achieve the goals of each new project.

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