Could heat mapping be an equalizer for brick & mortar?
E-commerce sites can gain a huge benefit from the ability to track a browser’s every move, thus allowing the retailer to continually tweak targeting on a real-time basis. In the physical retail realm, cameras equipped with heat mapping software are promising to bring similar analytics.
At its most basic, heat mapping uses security camera images to illustrate the hot and dead zones in a store. Generally, red areas indicate spots where many customers have have been present, while green spots signify lower traffic. Retailers are now also incorporating beacons, ceiling sensors, weight-sensing shelves and other emerging technologies to deliver increasingly detailed heat maps.
Understanding where shoppers congregate and linger adds some science to in-store merchandising that has traditionally been done by gut instinct and employee observations. Dead zones can point to problems with traffic flow that may inspire shelf or layout changes.
“There is tremendous interest in this tracking because stores are essentially flying blind,” Chris Petersen, president of Integrated Marketing Solutions and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, recently told the Los Angeles Times. “They don’t have all the bread crumbs you leave on a website.”
For example, such insights may lead retailers to move fixtures in order to reduce bottlenecks and increase traffic around promotional displays. Operators can use A/B testing to see whether in-store placement or some factor such as pricing, quality or marketing message is behind a dead zone or slow seller. Weight-sensing shelves and RFID can even reveal which items have been picked up but not sold.
“OK, so this is working, this is not working, I need to change this and quickly make adjustments,” Cliff Crosbie, SVP Retail at Prism Skylabs, a video-based analytics service, told CNN Money. Other heat mapping software players include Angle Cam, SEQ Security Surveillance Services, InteraLinx and MOBOTI.
The next major step in improving heat maps is expected to be incorporating facial sensing technology to plug in a shopper’s age, gender and potentially their mood.
- Why do customers flock to one dress and ignore another? Stores turn to heat mapping to figure out. – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Retail’s secret weapon: high-tech heat maps – CNN Money
- iConnect preps rollout of new traffic counter software – Furniture Today
- 6 Smart Ways Retailers Can Use Heat Maps to Drive Conversions – Street Fight
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the benefits and limits of heat mapping as a tool for understanding in-store shopper behavior? Are the comparisons to tracking online shopping behavior reasonable?