“LOOK up there,” says Edward Armishaw of Walkbase, a Finnish retail-analytics firm, as he points to a small white box above a column clad in mirrors. The sensor—and over a hundred others like it hidden around this department store in London’s Oxford Street—tracks the footsteps of customers through the pings their smartphones emit in search of a Wi-Fi network. Quite unaware, a shopper in a silver puffa jacket ambles past and over to the fitting room. Whether she moves to the till will be logged by Walkbase and its client.
Think of it as footfall 2.0. For many years shops used rudimentary “break-beam” systems—lasers stretched across their entrances—to count people in and out. Only recently have they begun to follow customers inside their buildings, says Nick Pompa of ShopperTrak, an American firm whose work with 2,100 clients worldwide, including malls in Las Vegas and in Liverpool, makes it a giant in the area.
Tracking technologies are ingenious. Some flash out a code to smartphone cameras by means of LED lighting; others, such as IndoorAtlas, a startup with headquarters in California and Finland, monitor how devices disrupt a store’s geomagnetic field. With smartphone ownership rising, the market for tracking phones indoors could grow fivefold between now and 2021, to a total of $23bn, says Research and Markets, a market-research…Continue reading