You can manage what you can measure
It is a fact of life that shopping centres are in the business of generating pedestrian traffic. The more customer traffic the centre generates the more attractive it becomes to the retailer. If the retailer finds the centre more appealing they become more willing to negotiate higher and longer leases.
Since pedestrian traffic is the very lifeblood of the business, logically all centres require both an accurate and reliable means of collecting and processing customer traffic data.
It may be surprising to find that despite this less than 40% of UK centres have any form of reliable pedestrian counting system. And if they do, even less use the data to any meaningful effect.
We are all aware of the vital need to be able to monitor small incremental changes in pedestrian traffic. However, many centres still use outdated and unreliable technologies, or in some cases tie up long periods of the day using security guard resources to manually count during the day.
Counting visitors using car count and multiplying by a factor is even less precise than intermittent manual counts since the number of people in a car will vary dramatically by time of day, day of week and season
First generation traffic counting used break-beam technology to count, however this has proven to be inaccurate to a point many retailers will no longer accept the figures it gives out.
As for using security staff to manually count for fixed periods of the day, “forget the cost” what about the inaccuracies e.g. the centre counts 5 minutes in every hour and calculates the full hour from this. Example 20 X 12 = 240 per hour: What if in those five minutes an additional family of 5 came in? 25 X12 = 300 an increase of 60 counts or 20%, how do you monitor incremental changes in this scenario?
The end result of these methodologies is inaccurate and erratic traffic data that is reflected throughout all the key business functions and decisions, never giving management a true indication of success, let alone the potential for improvement.
Those still using outdated traffic-counting methods would be well served to join those that have already realised that a relatively small investment in a proven technology can provide a dramatic return on investment in a few short months.
Proactive use of in-mall customer counting provide
Additional income generation
Aside from the setting and justification of leasing costs, additional revenue can be generated from advertising and sponsorship. Comprehensive accurate traffic count is key to this income stream. By being aware of traffic volume and dwell times in certain areas of the centre, specific values can be attributed to these entrances and areas. Centre management are able to use their traffic information to entice advertisers, much in the same vein that print media sell impressions.
The same holds true when planning events and promotions across the centre or property portfolio, these can be aimed at specific days/weeks when they are likely to be more effective.
It is not possible to describe a centre as inexpensive to manage, nor dose a centre operate itself. Labour and operational costs constantly erode revenues unless they are managed properly. Accurate and timely foot traffic information can be the most effective management solution available.
By knowing the volumes of traffic on certain times of the day and days of the week, centre management can benchmark labour schedules as well as heating, air conditioning, lighting and even minor routine maintenances per 1000 visitors. The same traffic information can be utilised in scheduling security patrols in specific areas of the centre. This has the advantage of keeping operational cost to a minimum while maintaining security to visitor ratios.
Pressing home the advantage
The retail economy has grown more competitive by the day; it is therefore absolutely vital that centre owners and managing agents use every tool at their disposal to gain advantages over the competition. A full comprehensive and accurate traffic management solution is something that a centre simply cannot afford to be without. It is by far the most cost-effective means of understanding the many factors that drive traffic to our centres. Making the right business decisions based on facts can be a most enlightening experience.
In the end, if the solution is properly implemented and executed, the return on investment will make centre owners marvel how they ever survived without it.