Businesses have long used surveillance video to capture criminal activity and monitor customer flow throughout the day. But in the era of Big Data, scientists are learning new uses for the devices, gathering insights that can shape merchandise locations and customer flows throughout retail stores.
But because the technology is still new, many smaller businesses are still forced to analyze and compile this information the old-fashioned way. This means watching hours of footage. Prism Skylabs is offering a free trial of its solution that promises to provide information on customer paths, dwell time, and product lift, among other options. However, the site makes no mention of the pricing structure of its new product, which is officially on the market in November.
Whether you choose one of the Cloud-based services that automates video surveillance analytics or jot them down on a notepad, here are a few things your security cameras can reveal about your store.
Big data solutions use heatmaps to capture data about customer movements, but store owners can easily watch those movements themselves, fast-forwarding throughout the day to get an overview. Pay particular attention to where the vast majority of customers stop. Are the accessories at the back of the store being ignored? It might be a better idea to move them closer to the register.
Does the number of shoppers increase when school lets out? Is your late-night promotion a bomb, while opening two hours early during the crucial holiday season creates a rush? This information can help you adjust your future promotions for maximum success.
Customer volume can also provide insight into your staffing needs. Over time, you can begin to predict when your store will be busiest. While this data can also be gathered through sales figures, such analysis often leaves out information about customers who browse without buying.
Are a record number of customers picking up a particular product and checking its price tag, only to put it back down? This may be a sign your sales price needs to be dropped. For clothing stores, if an item has lingered on the racks for months, it may be time to send it back. But before doing so, a retailer could gain valuable insight by learning if the item is being routinely tried on but not purchased. If the item is in the back of the store where the vast majority of customers never see it, a retailer could move it to the front of the store to see if it gets a better response.
One difference between automated customer tracking and visual tracking is privacy. Heatmaps track only body heat, not providing faces or bodies in each snapped picture. This may provide customers who have privacy concerns a small measure of comfort. Interestingly, though, customers likely realize they’ve been watched by security personnel for years while shopping and they seem to have less issue with that than being monitored for data analytics purposes, judging by the outcry over Nordstrum’s cell phone tracking practices.
Predictive analytics are likely to become a larger part of the retail industry each year. By using surveillance cameras already in place, small businesses can be a part of this revolution at a cost they can afford.