What Retailers Need to Know About In-Store Analytics


Despite dire predictions in recent years, the physical store remains a crucial part of the retailer’s armoury, bringing customers through the door on a regular basis.  In order to keep growing the business, expanding profits and encouraging loyal customers, stores need to use all the tools available to them.  And now they have access to the kind of in-store analytics that were once limited to online stores.  So, what do retailers need to know about in-store analytics and how they can use them?

The basics

When someone visits an online store, clever technology tracks their every move.  What pages they visit, what part of the pages they spend time on, what they click and where they come from are all considered basic analytic data for websites.  But the same didn’t exist for the physical store until the development of in-store analytics.

The idea is simple – the combination of a series of non-intrusive technologies that exist within stores already working with a dedicated piece of software to offer analytics that is similar to that available online.  Customer tracking is another term used to describe it, though it now goes far beyond that.

How it works

At the heart of the in-store analytics systems is to use of Wi-Fi hotspots and CCTV cameras.  Both of these features in most places around the country but can be combined to create a clever new way to understand customers.

Wi-Fi spots create a picture of a customer when they enter the store with a smartphone that has the Wi-Fi setting active.  This is because the phone connects to a series of hotspots around the shop using a unique code.  There is no personal data attached to this information but creates a digital identity of sorts for each customer based on that smartphone ID.

This information can be combined with data from CCTV cameras that are used in stores for security.  These offer basic information about the customer such as gender, basic age grouping, even if they have children.  But most importantly, the two combined give a picture of where in the store a customer visits.

Shopper tracking technology

This system is also known as shopper tracking technology and allows stores to build up a picture of what parts of the shop customers use and what parts they don’t.  This is crucial for a number of reasons.

First, say the store wants to create a new promotion and wants it to be one of the first things that customers see when they enter the store.  They might pick the first aisle as the best location.  But information from shopper tracking shows that most people enter the store and start on the second aisle, with only around 25% going up the first aisle.  This would indicate that the second aisle is the best place for the promotion.

Another useful piece of information that is gleaned from this system is how many people look at a shop window and then enter the store – or don’t.  It also builds up an accurate picture of the footfall into the store at any time allowing management to see patterns that previously were more of a general feeling than a data-driven fact.

Those CCTV images can even reveal a little about the emotions involved in the shopping experience.  Did the customer smile when they saw that new promotion or was it completely ignored?  If there is a target group for the advertising, did it work or was it greeted with a negative emotion?  Often our faces tell a story about what we are thinking and this can be used to gain general insights into what customers like and dislike.

Using the right software

By using the right software to undertake retail store tracking, retailers can do a lot more than just acquire insights into their customers.

One of the big areas is the workforce management aspect of this software.  At one time, managers assign shifts based on a number of factors but often based on their experience.  While this is effective, it is now possible to advance this system by adding hard data into the equation.  For example, if the manager thinks that Saturday afternoon is the busiest time and has extra staff in for this period, the software can either back them up or offer a better impression – perhaps Saturday and Sunday mornings are both equally busy.

Optimising staff has a number of positive effects.  Not only do you have the right number of staff on hand based on the patterns to offer better customer service, staff are also more productive.  Because there are the right number of people available at any time, there are always things to be done and avoid either overworking or underworking the staff.


A big trend that everyone in retail is talking about at the moment is the personalization of the shopping experience.  People are used to being online and having websites that know what they like and offer them relevant products.  With the use of in-store analytics, physical stores are beginning to be able to offer similar systems.

Loyalty schemes are a great example.  Customers sign up to them with some personal information that can be used to gain insight into their shopping habits and allows for personalised offers and discounts.  But the use of in-store analytics means you can also see if the person even looks at the items offered – what doesn’t work is just as important as what does.

The developments in smart technology look set to continue to enhance in-store analytics.  Smart shelves not only allow retailers to know when a product has sold out but can even monitor pick up and put back rates.


For stores to continue to grow and to offer customers the kind of experience that they desire, the use of in-store analytics will become crucial.  Gaining that insight into what customers do allows stores to offer that personalised experience while ensuring that their customers are loyal and keep coming back to the store over time.

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