Several companies showcased customer kinetics (shopper movement tracking) software at the 100th National Retail Federation trade show this week in New York City. Video cameras mounted overhead throughout a store capture images of customers as they enter, shop, pay, and leave. The software converts the moving images anonymously into squiggles and lines which it tracks as shopper move around the store over time. Think of it as “human clickstreams”.
The software timestamps and saves each customer path in a database. Something like this:
10:43:00 Enter on East side
10:43:10 Arrive at Directory
10:44:03 Heads right
10:44:13 Slows down and pauses at digital display #1
The lines show the path shoppers have walked.
Typical applications of this technology including counting customers. Knowing how many customers came into your store on a particular day can help with labor planning. Knowing how many customers are in the store right now can help direct existing staff to those shoppers who need attention. One vendor told me that if more than two minutes go by without an retail sales associate approaching a customer in the big screen television department, the system pages the manager on duty to get someone over there pronto. (Yes, these systems can track employees’ movements separately from customers).
Lay the tracks of all the shoppers on top of each other and the software presents a diagram that looks like a plate of spaghetti and is equally difficult to make sense of. Ask for a ‘heat map’ and the software conjurs up a color-coded diagram showing where the most traffic goes.
Heat Map shows all traffic over a given time period
It’s important for consumers to note that this technology cannot correlate profiles with store movement. In other words, it’s impossible to know that Mr. Smith, living at 12 Palm Avenue, just spent 20 minutes looking at jewelry on Thursday at 10:00am. That wouldn’t be customer kinetics, the science of understanding shopper behavior through their movements, it would be stalking.
Still in its adolescence, customer kinetics offers great opportunities to better understand the intent of the customer. Used properly, that information can help retailers improve the shopper experience in a natural and profitable way.