Harnessing the wealth of data

Busy motion blurred London street scene


The old playbook and rules will likely have to be thrown out, and bold, differentiated action will be required to stand out from the competition. [Source: Deloitte 2021 Retail Outlook]


It’s clear in the bricks and mortar retail industry change is imperative for survival. The onslaught of pressure from online stores is huge, bringing with it a subsequent rise in expectations from customers on things like variety, methods of payment, and time to delivery. And that’s even before the whole world changed due to the pandemic of 2020.


The industry is reacting too, with many traditional stores also offering online shopping options, and pop-up stores appearing on high streets. The idea of ‘concept stores’ also cropped up, where shoppers can enjoy the experiences of products and then order them later online. People are also using social media channels to shop, or at least to do their research too.



The numbers are in

What all of these activities have in common to be successful from the beginning is data. They rely on knowledge of the market, the footfall in an area, the popular brands, and even people flow - the way people move through a store.


This is where technology can be a valuable ally. With fast number-crunching computing and AI to help systems learn, a wealth of information can be at the fingertips of a retail manager.


Retailers are able to visualize all kinds of data coming from the cameras and sensors placed throughout their stores. Dual-lens people counting cameras can count people in and out, even filtering out employees and repeat visitors (within the same time frame) to increase the accuracy and so value of the information. Heat mapping, using Fisheye ceiling cameras, can provide an enlightening insight into the popular areas of a store, and even which products are getting the most ‘visits’.


This allows them to improve store efficiency, for example through the visualization and analysis of people counting data, but can also help them enact data analysis-based precision marketing through store heat mapping. The Hikvision central management platform enables true business intelligence.



People flow

A technology solution can also be effectively applied to flow control and accurate detection of contact distances, contributing to a safer environment and a better shopping experience for customers. In addition, it is increasingly important to map visitors and patterns using business intelligence so that the shop floor, staff and merchandise can be deployed more efficiently.


Queue management is a growing issue for retailers. No-one wants to wait in line and this is seen as a terrible place to lose a customer, since they have already decided to purchase. Data from cameras can be used to plan for this, and tell retailers when the peak times could be to arrange more checkouts to be open. But more than that, the technology can also be used to send an alert to management when a queue gets too long in real time. This makes it a great practical management tool as well as a planning one.


Data can be also used for crowd density monitoring and flow detection, meaning retailers can be smart about managing crowds. They can use them to ensure there’s a safe space for people to shop freely and plan around any potential bottlenecks around popular areas. These processes will come in particularly useful for retail events like sales, where the footfall numbers rise.


All of this can be centrally managed using software that brings all of the information together, creating reports and identifying trends. Seamless solutions can be developed using a variety of different technologies to meet the specific needs of the retailers. These can also include digital signage that can be used to direct shoppers through the space, inform them of amounts of people inside, and even show them the latest bargains to be had!


The application of smart devices can be a real boon to an industry that needs to evolve in order to survive. From knowing the number of people visiting a certain area of your shop to understanding how people move through your space, bricks and mortar shops are reaching for numbers to help them fight for survival.



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