Precision in the Face of A Pandemic
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Prague, and the newly reopened store-lined streets were ready for business.
Curious to see how retail has adapted, I was on the lookout for occupancy management measures.
“That store had a counter clicker,” my husband pointed out.
Turns out, his dad bought him one as a child because he liked to count things.
This simple counting machine was suitable for making one little boy clicker-happy; and is apparently having another moment in retail’s post lockdown landscape.
I was fascinated to see that while retailers have widely implemented modern people counting technologies, the need for supreme accuracy due to Covid-19 has led some to resort back to the old ways of having a doorman do a manual count.
This poor person eyeballs every person going in and out because mainstream, traditional people counters are just not accurate enough for the store entry management use case of maintaining safe store occupancy.
People counters do provide useful information based on trends that do not require a high degree of accuracy, like foot traffic trends over time.
However, extraordinary times call for extra-precise measures.
Every single customer is highly valuable, but also a potential risk.
Inaccurate entry counts will jeopardize safe social distancing, making room for a resurge of infections. This will lead to closures.
Retailers cannot afford this, and must proactively take the right steps to sustain operations safely.
This is how the main people counter technologies rank according to accuracy:
Accuracy rating: 65-75%
Heat-sensitive sensors are easily confused by the humidity in the weather. With the Northern hemisphere lifting restrictions and opening borders in the run-up to summer, this particular kind of technology will not be able to deliver the accuracy and reliability that retailers will require in the months ahead.
Accuracy rating: 60-70%
These people counters direct a horizontal infrared beam across the store entrance. Whenever the beam is broken, a visitor is counted. But, are they entering or exiting the store? There’s no way of knowing. What if two or more people enter together? Beams can’t help you manage your safe occupancy levels, you’re on your own.
Accuracy rating: 80-90%
2D cameras are designed to count the number of people entering or exiting a store but have difficulty distinguishing between people and objects such as shopping carts. Shadows and low lighting also compromise accuracy, making their reliability just not got enough.
3D COMPUTER VISION
Accuracy rating >95%
3D camera counters use stereoscopic computer vision, offering advanced customer insights like age & gender. The AI-powered tech can distinguish between objects and humans, but as it is based on the detection & tracking of moving pixels in a grouped shape, is prone to detection errors- counting backpacks, hats, and display fixtures or reflections as additional people.
DEEP NEURAL NETWORKS (DNN)
Accuracy rating 98-99%
This technology is based on Deep Neural Networks which detect & count both entries and exits, based on trained algorithms. They can be trained for various objects, so as not to confuse people with mannequins or even visuals on digital signage. It gives precise results even in the presence of window reflections, and what would otherwise be sub-optimal lighting and weather patterns.
VisitSafe, our digital doorman, combines this technology with sanitation provisions to regulate store traffic, ensuring social distancing to achieve safer shopping for everyone.
VisitSafe is designed to be super accurate because COVID-19 measures demand it.
Eliminates unnecessary contact
Please don’t station associates as ‘counters’ at your door, putting them at risk of infection every time they count a new customer.
There’s also the flipside of the coin, where an ill staff member will spread it among visitors.
It also means no negative personal interactions where staff must turn customers away.
VisitSafe is the neutral party built for the frontline.
The digital interface will simply ask them to wait if the store is full, while valuable team members can continue assisting customers, or sanitizing the inside of your store, or working on your online channels to enhance the omnichannel customer experience.
“We aim to provide friendly real-time occupancy management at a fraction of the costs compared to security and store staff overheads,” explains Tomas Baca, CEO of VisitSafe creators’ Vision.gl.
Associates are a store’s most expensive asset- and due to layoffs during the shutdown period, they are now also the most scarce.
By not spending more to waste valuable manpower at the door, you save while recouping the investment in assisted sales.
All while freeing up space for one more shopper in-store at a time.
Furthermore, fortifying your space with visible safety regulations will encourage wary customers to enter and linger longer- a revenue driver in itself.
The more professional you are in communicating these measures to your customers, the better.
Welcome all your customers back professionally and safely.
Available as either a stand and or a wall-mounted tablet, VisitSafe interacts with your new visitors.
It informs them of wait times while providing efficient access to hand sanitizer, gloves, and/or masks.
This helps you to regulate store entries while starting each customer journey off on the right foot.
Inconsistent visitor counts can lead to exceeding store occupancy, and social distancing goes out of the window when people compete for service and browsing space inside.
This puts everyone inside at risk, but also extends further into the community.
And this goes on until governments are forced to impose the same economy-crushing regulations as before.
It doesn’t have to get to this point.
We can all sustain store-lined streets, and malls for that matter, if we work together to retail responsibly.
Are you prepared to accurately manage your store occupancy? Visit https://vision.gl/covid19-respons