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Not Standing Still: Foot Traffic Analytics Heat Up

SMB Retail by Angela Diffly
shoppers walkingBorn To Run

Matt McCoy and Joe Scanlin have known each other since they were eight years old, but the real fun began when they dove into entrepreneurship at the ripe age of 15, knocking on doors to sell landscaping services to neighbors. This wasn’t your average lemonade-stand operation; they ran the business for seven years. “I like to say we were entrepreneurs and didn’t know it, but my co-founder did,” McCoy told us. They learned a lot about sustaining a business in those early years, and it paid off when they teamed up again to form one of today’s top 10 fastest growing Internet of Things (IoT) technology companies. Scanalytics measures human behavior insights through intelligent floor sensors, and they’re on a roll.

Lightbulb Moment

When Scanlin was shopping at a retail store (that has since turned into a client), he noticed several sales associates gathered around talking to one another, not helping him. He was standing in front of a product he was interested in, but needed a little assistance to purchase. He started thinking of ways to solve this problem. How could store associates be alerted to the orientation of how he was standing, how long he’d been there, what he was looking at, the time of day, etc. Scanlin and McCoy set off to develop what is now known as the SoleSensor (or Smart Mat), an intelligent floor sensor that measures 100 percent of foot traffic in physical spaces, and tracks behaviors such as engagement time, turnover and patience rates.

Perfect Fit

As it turns out, where people walk and stand is invaluable data to SMBs. “When we talk to smaller retailers about technology sometimes, they say, ‘that’s great, but I’m not a big box store and I’m never going to be a big box store’. Their needs are different. This is a simple, affordable solution – and SMBs, a massively underserved market, are really embracing it,” McCoy said. The goal was to come up with a simple, accurate and reliable solution, especially for small retailers who don’t have the infrastructure, want or need to install cameras, or don’t see the benefit of mobile technologies, since their customer demographic doesn’t want to opt into Wi-Fi or download an app. “We don’t have any imaging issues, it’s all just binary – the customer is either standing there or they’re not,” said McCoy. “We can drill down into one square foot. Beacons or cameras don’t have that granularity.”

“When you walk into a retail space, there’s only one place you have to touch and that’s the floor,” McCoy pointed out. “On a basic level, we can embed our sensors into that black utility mat that sits in most entryways to find out how many people come in and out of the store, and how foot traffic fluctuates over time, and apply that data to sales and staffing efficiencies.” The mats are plug-and-play, with a software component and dashboard that provide data in real time.

solesensor wpTangible Results

Scanalytics works with a number of bicycle shops that have high-margin, high-involvement products. Some are looking to pinpoint peak hours, and others want to measure which marketing campaigns are most effective. For example, one campaign may draw in 100 people, but the customers may not stay long and it may not result in big sales. Another campaign may prove to be more strategic, with fewer people entering the store, but more transaction conversions. For service counters, they can determine how long customers are waiting and how fast they were helped.

McCoy told us that many times retailers think they know how many people are coming through their doors, but they don’t know precisely. For example, what if they knew that Thursdays at 5:00 were the busiest? The foot traffic data can help them staff stores smarter. “We’re creating that funnel of prospects. We give them a very accurate tool to increase qualified prospects and maximize conversions. Think about having a website and not monitoring your hits – that seems crazy, right? That’s what we relate it to when retailers don’t know the basics. Who’s walking through that door, when and how does that traffic fluctuate? Without it, you don’t have an empirical way to see how that store is performing.”

The Data’s In The Details

So who owns the data, you may be wondering. “Our customers own the data, but we have an unlimited license to the data to create whitepapers and benchmarks,” McCoy told us. Imagine the possibilities. Scanalytics likely has its data segmented by micro-vertical. How do bicycle shops do in winter months? What time of day are people buying jewelry? Besides major holidays and obvious occasions, what other random times do people buy chocolate? It’s fascinating data that puts consumer shopper behavior under a microscope, yet with complete anonymity (avoiding the dreaded privacy concerns and “creep factor” some feel is inherent in other technologies).

So much has been written about personalization and getting to know your customer, yet many retailers don’t know the basics. If you have 25 stores, you’re more likely to want to know how many people came in and where they went, where they dwelled and how many conversions were tied to those numbers, especially since many small retailers already have a pretty good idea of their demographic based on the type of business they run.

“Our data is all in real-time. If someone is standing in front of a display for 10-20 seconds, we have the capability to send an alert to the dashboard or to a staff cell phone. You may not know who they are exactly, but you’ll know where they are and if they’re likely to need assistance,” McCoy said.

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Business Model

Scanalytics leases the hardware, and retailers subscribe to the data. “It’s very scalable. We’ve done pop-up stores, where it may be four hours a day for a couple of days, or a couple of months during a busy season to measure a campaign, and we also do annual leases,” explained McCoy. Since about half of its deployments go under the floor, they’re more long-term. Prices can range from a few dollars to $10-15 per square foot.

While the majority of the company’s business resides in retail (60 percent), its roots are in tradeshow measurement (booth traffic) and they’re ramping up deployments in healthcare (nursing homes, fall detection, etc.), office spaces (to understand work patterns) and manufacturing lines (where for safety reasons, machines can automatically switch off if someone is not standing there). They also work with experiential marketing, reporting back to retailers how displays are performing, for example.

Stand By Me

Scanalytics is open to cultivating new sales, reseller and manufacturer relationships. “We don’t position ourselves as ‘use us and no one else’. More data provides more value. When we can integrate to the point-of-sale, for example, at the end of the day we’re providing better service to our customers,” McCoy explained.

With a team of 15 and installations around the world, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Southeast Asia, the company has measured an impressive 50 million counts to date.

As for the long-time friends and co-owners? They’ve moved from teenage landscaping entrepreneurs to owners of a top 10 IoT tech company. And, in August, McCoy will stand by Scanlin as best man in his upcoming wedding. Don’t put a SoleSensor under their feet; these guys won’t be standing still for long.