By Kishore Jethanandani
The competitive battle between brick-and-mortar stores and on-line stores seemed like a no contest. E-commerce stores have the clinching advantage in analytics. Video analytics may well help stores disprove that presumption.
E-commerce sites learn so much from the footprints of visitors on their sites with the analytics tools. Video analytics will potentially capture not only the quantitative data on shoppers but also the demographics such as ethnicity and even suggestive psychographic data, from the unguarded expressions of shoppers engaging with products and services, advertising and content, for better targeting.
Accepted notions of display, store planning and merchandising begin to change with the insights received from the analysis of video and related data. Tim Callan, the CMO of RetailNext, a leading video analytics company based in San Francisco, related the story of a retail store that wanted to position its signature products so that they would be conspicuous to shoppers. The conventional wisdom was that those products should be placed at the entry of the store. “Video analytics revealed that there are dead zones near the door entry where shoppers make way for people so they have enough space to enter the shop and miss the products placed there,” Mr. Tim Callan recounted.
Another case led to a substantial redesign of the store as a result of findings from video analytics. Like most lifestyle retail stores, it had a section for shoes. Typically, shoes are displayed on walls for customers to scan before they choose. Most stores place benches next to the wall where customers try out the shoes. “Video analytics revealed that the benches discouraged the shoppers from spending enough time looking at shoes on the wall,” Mr. Callan revealed. “The store decided to reserve separate spaces for the wall and the benches and increased the dwell time on shoes by five times,” Mr. Callan added.
Insights on customer behavior revealed by the qualitative data proved to be especially useful for Gordmans (Mr. Callan disputes the name of the store), a mid-western department store, as a guide to customer service decisions according to a report by the Economist. A camera embedded in Mannequins helped to spot a pattern—the tendency of Asian customers to visit at the same hours of the day. The store responded by placing Asian employees to serve them.
Merchandising decisions can be fine-tuned to increase conversions and improve outcomes from cross-selling. Retailers like Urban Outfitters draw on insights uncovered from correlations between the data on time spent eyeing products and sales realized at the counters. Customers, for example, could have entered the store to buy custom jewelry and may well be in the mood to buy perfumes. If they spot perfumes in an adjacent display, they are more likely to buy them. Today’s cameras take a 360 degree view of stores and will capture behavior of this nature to provide pointers to cross-selling opportunities.
The critical advantage of video analytics tools for stores is the ability to use analytical reports in real-time and feed advertisements, content and offers to customers while they are still in the store. Immersive Software’s Cara software, for example, processes data, in real-time, from face detection cameras to determine the gender and age of shoppers and change the advertisements that are more likely to appeal to the observed profile of visitors to the stores. “The data helps to personalize the experience for customers such as by placing customers in the advertisements they see,” said Jason Sosa, the CEO of Immersive Software.
Early adopter American Apparel recovered from a near death experience after it restructured its stores and deployed video analytics among other technologies. A store that faced the prospect of bankruptcy in mid-2012 is now profitable.
Stores have a chance to make shopping fun as they understand the shoppers’ behavior a lot better with video analytics. Shoppers could well end up loving it more than the yawn of executing commands on-line.
A version of this post was published in the now defunct Digital Canvas Retail hosted by UBM Techweb