Taking the guesswork out of retail
Retailers have had to work largely by trial and error when planning layouts and merchandising products in their stores. Now, help is at hand.
Imagine: as a shopper moves around a store, a small tag mounted on her trolley or basket communicates with antennae mounted at specific places in the store, and the system's software calculates and records in a database the shopper's route through the store. The customer's "trail" is then compared with the physical location of the products in the store and with the goods that the customer checks out. Tables, charts and graphs are then prepared which will help category managers and store planners to move the stock around to optimum positions, increasing customer satisfaction and boosting sales.
A few years ago this was the stuff of science fiction - nothing more than the proverbial gleam in a retailer's eye. But now, it's fact. Wireless supply chain visibility solution company, WhereNet, and market research company Sorensen Associates, have combined their expertise to develop the PathTracker system, which does just that. The plan is to identify flaws in merchandising and make subsequent improvements to store design to more closely meet the needs of shoppers.
Herb Sorensen, founder and CEO of Sorensen Associates, says that an industry that in the past has had to resort to trial and error when merchandising products can now instead rely on detailed, insightful data and analysis.
The technology: The system analyses both the shoppers' traffic patterns and the time spent in certain aisles or in front of specific POS displays. It is driven by radio-frequency WhereTags on the shopping trolleys or baskets, and an infrastructure of WhereNet antennae that receive transmissions from the tags every few seconds. These in turn drive the WhereNet visibility software that does the calculations and analysis.
What it will do PathTracker will help retailers to:· Promote and control shopping traffic.· Get shoppers into the store and to the targeted category, section or aisle.· Allocate merchandise to best suit established traffic patterns.· Improve management and effectiveness of merchandising.· Get shoppers to shop and buy (rather than just browse).· Understand the patterns and durations of shoppers' trips.
Sales have picked up A pilot installation at a Thriftway store in Portland, Oregon, has revealed totally new insights into shoppers' buying patterns. For example, the system showed that one in two shoppers who visit the store are there only for a few minutes to pick up a few items. This led store managers to develop a convenience store-type format near the store entrance, resulting in higher sales and profits.
In another case at Thriftway, products having very low conversion rates were moved out of a high traffic area to make room for salty snacks that have both high interest and high purchase rates.
Thriftway's store director, Ron Woodin, says: "Since installing the PathTracker system last year, we have been able to analyse customers' shopping patterns, and re-merchandise and redesign the store layout accordingly to increase traffic flow in slow areas, and maximise shelf and aisle space in other areas. Already, our sales have picked up as a result of using this technology."
Sorensen Associates is a marketing research firm that has specialized in studying shoppers' attitudes and opinions while at the point of purchase in the store for the past 30 years.
WhereNet's real-time locating and tracking technology utilizes patented advances in spread-spectrum wireless technology to provide the ability to locate any tagged object to within 10 feet (3 meters). Its clients include Ford and Coca Cola.