All posts by Jill Studholme

Writing about people counting since 2002

Learn how to reduce queues and increase sales

The average person now spends one year, two weeks and a day of their lives stuck in shop queues. That’s according to a report by Box Technologies and Intel, which highlights the importance of technology in reducing queues. The research also found

  • Seven people in a queue is the tipping point – any longer and most shoppers won’t bother joining it
  • After 9 minutes, shoppers are likely to give up queuing and leave empty handed (other research says as little 6 minutes)
  • 86% of consumers will avoid a store if they they think that the queue is too long
  • The average shopping trip includes 20 minutes queuing time.
  • 70% are less likely to return to a store if they experience long waiting times on just one occasion
70% of people won't return to a store if they are stuck in a long queue there just once
70% of people won’t return to a shop if have been are stuck in a long queue there just once

Previous research by Lu, Musalem, Olivares and Schilkrut has also found that

  • Moderate increases in the number of customers in a queue can generate a sales reduction equivalent to a 5% price increase.

No wonder retailers and other businesses try to minimise queues. With today’s technology reducing queues becomes much simpler. A CCTV queue management system lets businesses test measures to reduce queues, and assess their impact and profitability.

A video queue management system shows

  • The number of active service points (ticket booths or retail checkouts for instance)
  • The number of people currently in a queue.
  • The average queue length
  • The average queuing time over the last half hour (for example)
  • For how long the last person to be served waited
  • How often there were more than seven people in the queue
  • How many people abandoned the queue
  • How many people jumped the queue
  • Daily figures, for example, 95% of people queued for less than 5 minutes.

Integrating the queue management system with the point-of-sale system gives hard evidence about how queue length affects sales.

To learn more about measuring and managing queues, e-mail, call us on +44 (0)161 839 6437 or fill in the form.


Further Reading on Managing Queues

Read more about measuring queues.

How long does it take to lose a customer? Report by Box Technologies and Intel

Measuring the Effect of Queues on Customer Purchases. Yina Lu, Andrés Musalem, Marcelo Olivares, and Ariel Schilkrut Management Science 201359:8 , 1743-1763

Tech evolution reducing queuing patience, Essential Retail

Retail traffic counting improves staffing and sales

Using retail traffic counting, stores can more efficiently schedule staff and increase sales.

When shoppers aren’t sure what to buy, and don’t get helpful advice from retail staff, 90% of them leave empty-handed, according to a consumer survey by TimeTrade.

It gets worse. If the 90 percent of shoppers had received the help from shop assistants, 86 percent of them would have purchased even more than planned.

The survey found that when consumers aren’t sure of what to buy, and actually get the help they need:

  • 93% are more likely to buy
  • 90% would shop at the same store the next time
  • 84% leave more satisfied
  • 86% buy more than they expected

“Every retailer can do the math,” said Gary Ambrosino, president of TimeTrade. “We’re talking about billions of dollars in lost sales – all because retailers don’t have the right sales associates connecting with the right customers at the right time.”

But retailers have limited resources to devote to staffing. To ensure they optimise the number of shop assistants available, managers need to know when are their peak shopping times and busiest footfall. A video retail traffic counter shows hourly, half-hourly or even 5-minute break-down of the number of people entering the store. The counts can be integrated with a workforce management system, making it easy to create better forecasts and staffing schedules.

Identifying key selling periods lets retailers allocate more staff at busy periods, and choose to have their best shop assistants on the floor at these times.

Video retail traffic counters can also send footfall figures to point-of-sale (POS) databases in near real-time. Using this data sales conversion figures are produced every hour or even every 15 minutes. Retailers now have concrete data as to whether their staff scheduling met their sales potential. And take steps to improve when the system highlights inefficiencies.

Graph of hourly sales conversion

To find out more about retail traffic counting, and allocating staff to maximise profits, contact or fill in our contact form.

93% more likely to buy with optimal staff levels

Thousands of shoppers walk into stores looking for guidance on what to buy, but nearly 90 percent leave empty handed when they can’t find the help they need, according to a consumer survey by TimeTrade.

Even worse, if these shoppers had received the help they needed then 86 percent of them would have bought more than they planned.

The survey found that when consumers aren’t sure of what to buy, and actually get the help they need:

  • 93% are more likely to buy
  • 86% buy more than they expected
  • 84% leave more satisfied
  • And nearly 90% would shop at the same store the next time

Retailers have a tremendous opportunity to convert the 90 percent of shoppers walking out the door empty handed today, into customers who would never shop anywhere else,” said Gary Ambrosino, president of TimeTrade “The key: giving customers the personal attention they need, when they need it most.

But retailers have limited resources to devote to staffing. To ensure they optimise the number of shop assistants available, managers need to know when are their busiest footfall. With store traffic counters they can see hourly, half-hourly or even a 5-minute break-down of the number of shoppers.

Identifying key selling periods lets managers allocate more staff at busy periods, and choose to have their best shop assistants on the floor at these times.

Counts from video store traffic counters can be integrated with point-of-sale (POS) data and sales conversion figures calculated throughout the day. This means that retailers have hard data as to whether increasing the amount of staff present increased sales efficiency. And if not, investigate why not.

Knowledgeable sales associates are more powerful – and vital to retailers’ success – than ever before.

To find out more about counting shoppers using CCTV cameras, and allocating staff efficiently to maximise profits, contact

Traffic Up; Conversion Down?

How do retailers measure the affects of advertising promotions? One obvious metric is sales. Has the store sold more stuff during the promotion? But more sales are only an indirect measurement of advertising success. What if more people entered the store because of the advertising, but less of them bought anything – is that a success or a failure? And what are the reasons for the decrease in sales conversion?

It may be, of course, that the advertising campaign attracted browsers but not prospective customers. It’s more likely though that sales conversion was down because of other factors: staffing levels, running out of stock, long queues… Managers can make educated guesses but only by measuring footfall can retailers accurately assess marketing success. Without the footfall figures, no-one knows whether an increase in sales is an indication of a job well done or of opportunities lost.

A video counting system doesn’t just accurately monitor footfall and report real-time sales conversion figures, it also gives information on the length of time people stand waiting in a queue, how many left that queue and how long they spend overall in the shop. A whole raft of retail analytics to help stores realise their potential.

For more information contact Retail Sensing.

Measuring footfall increases jewellery sales

Saturday was always the best day of the week for Avanti Jewellers. Sales were greater then than during the rest of the week. But after installing a footfall monitoring system, manager Amanda realised that the shop was actually underperforming at the weekend.

The footfall figures told her that more people left the jewellers without buying anything on a Saturday than during the rest of the week. In fact, the sales conversion – the number of people buying compared to the number crossing the threshold – for Saturday was the worst of the week.

Amanda identified the root of the problem as the sales staff. Although she had extra staff on Saturdays, they tended to be much less experienced. As an experiment she asked her most experienced assistants to work on Saturdays. She found her conversion rates went up. The conversion of visitors to customers was now similar to other days. This greatly improved the sales figures.

Measuring footfall showed what was possible, and shook the complacency brought on by the sales figures alone.

Glossary of People, Vehicle and Passenger Counting Definitions

Dictionary of terms used to describe people counting, queue management, passenger counting, footfall systems, smart city counting and related topics. Any questions get in touch.

How closely the measured people counts match the actual number of people entering and leaving. The best performing systems achieve over 98% accuracy.
Acoustic Detector
Detects vehicles by the sound created as the vehicle passes.
APC stands for automatic passenger counting.
Average Shopping Time
Average Shopping Time – the length of time a person stays in a store.
Beam Counter
See Infra-Red Beam Counters
Bi-Directional People Counting
Counts in two directions.
Gathers data from Internet-of-Things devices (like smart counters) and serves the information to top level applications seen by people. Merges data from many different sources.
Building Management System
A computer control and automation system for buildings, managing such things as heating and lighting. People counting systems are sometimes part of the Building Management System.
Business Intelligence
A technology-driven process for collecting and analysing data, and presenting actionable information to help managers make more informed business decisions.
Capacity Monitoring
Monitoring the number of people entering and leaving a building to ensure maximum capacity levels aren’t exceeded.
A measure of how reliable and stable the results are. Whether the same accuracy is produced over differing times.
Conversion Rate
The number of people who make a purchase divided by the number of people who enter the store. If 100 people visit a store, and 5 of them buy something, the conversion rate is 5%.
Counting Zone
The area through which people must pass to be counted.
Customer Conversion
See Conversion Rate.
Diagonal Split
There are times when two people side-by-side may at first look like one person. Diagonal Split watches for this “one” person splitting into two. This happens, for example, when people enter through narrow doors before spreading out when more space is available.
Directional Counting
Records in and out counts: video and thermal counters do this automatically. Some infra-red beam systems rely on you dividing the count by two, although the more expensive beam counters are directional.
Doppler Microwave Sensing
Doppler microwave detection devices transmit a continuous signal of low-energy microwave radiation at a target area and then analyze the reflected signal. The detector registers a change in the frequency of waves occurring when the microwave source and the vehicle are in motion relative to one another. This allows the device to detect moving vehicles.
Dwell Time
The length of time a person stays in one area or pauses at a display.
Count totals are saved at regular intervals: every 5 minutes or every hour say. This interval is called an epoch.
Event Counting
Counting how often something occurs, in our case how often a person or vehicle crosses the counting zone.
Event People Counting
Counting the number of people attending an event.
The number of people entering an area, shop or building in a given time.
Footfall Comparison
Comparing the number of people entering an area, shop or building over two different time periods – year-on-year or on different days for example. It is also used to compare footfall across different areas or shops.
Freeze Time
A video counting system detects people moving through a counting zone. It may be, though, that a person enters the counting zone and then stands still. If they stand still for long enough, the system will consider them to be part of the background. The length of time a person can stand still and yet be counted is called the Freeze Time.
Heat map
Shows the most popular area of a store or room. The most well-travelled paths through the store are represented by colours overlaying a photo of the area.
Heat map in a children's clothing store
Hot Spot Map
Similar to a heat map but shows where people stop and linger.
Inductive Loop
An inductive loop may be used in vehicle counting. It is a square of wire embedded into or under the road. The loop utilizes the principle that a magnetic field introduced near an electrical conductor causes an electrical current to be induced. In the case of traffic monitoring, a large metal vehicle acts as the magnetic field and the inductive loop as the electrical conductor. A device at the roadside records the signals generated.
Infra-red beam counters
A sensor sends a beam to a reflector on the the opposite side of the doorway. As someone passes through the beam breaks and a person is counted. Accuracy tends to decrease with wide or busy entrances. If two people cross a beam together, for instance, only one count will be recorded. Direct sunlight onto the beam will also affect the system.These were in demand some years ago – now higher accuracy and more comprehensive information is generally demanded.
IP camera
An Internet protocol camera. A digital video camera commonly which can send and receive data via the Internet.
Internet of Things. Connection of physical devices, sensors, counting units, vehicles, buildings and other items over the internet. More…
Unit which counts pedestrians, vehicles, passengers and bicycles as part of a Smart City. More…
Key performance indicators, like sales conversion or average shopping time.
Manual Counting
Where a person counts the number individuals entering an area or getting on public transport, rather than an automatic counting system.
Magnetic Sensor
Detects vehicles by measuring the change in the earth’s magnetic field as the vehicles pass over the detector.
Minimum Separation
When a person first enters the counting zone, it may be that two parts of a person enter with a gap between them. For example a person carrying a briefcase might enter first by the case and then with an opposite foot or hand. To prevent this causing two separate people being “seeded”, you can specify a Minimum Separation number of pixels. (Seeding is the first sign of a person.)
Occupancy Monitoring
Counting the number of people currently on the premises.
People Counting
Measuring the number of people crossing a zone.
Used in vehicle counting – collect data by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Pneumatic Tube Vehicle Counting
A method of vehicle sensing with 90% accuracy.
Point-of-Sale. The place where a customer completes a transaction, such as a checkout counter. Integrating point-of-sale data with people counts allows conversion rate and other parameters to be calculated.
Radar Sensing
Radar is capable of detecting distant objects and determining their position and speed of movement. With vehicle detection, a device directs high frequency radio waves at the roadway to determine the time delay of the return signal, thereby calculating the distance to the detected vehicle.
Retail Analytics
Studying past data to improve decision making and test assumptions. Includes indicators such as conversion rate, average shopping time, number of items per transaction and average spend.
Retail Sensing
Manufacturer of advanced video people counting systems and provider of business intelligence.
Sales Conversion
The number of people making a purchase divided by the number of people entering the store. Also known as conversion rate and customer conversion. More…
The system’s first sight of a person.
Smart City
Where sensors and systems share information about the city via the Internet-of-Things. More…
Smart Mobility
Measuring and managing the flow of people, vehicles and bicycles around a area. More…
Passenger Counting
Counting passengers getting on and off buses, trains,
trams and other methods of public transport. More…
Queue Management Technology
Technology used to reduce waiting times. More…
Tally Counter
Handheld tally counterHand-held tally counters are the least sophisticated of solutions. A person stands clicking the tally counter whenever anyone passes through the entrance. Tally counters were once used in nightclubs and bars to monitor occupancy, but are now being replaced by automatic counting systems.
Thermal Sensors
Positioned above an entrance, they detect people’s body heat. Quoted accuracies are between 96 and 98%. Accuracy, though, can be affected by the ambient temperature within the counting area being above or below a certain value. Low ceilings can also reduce the accuracy.
Tailgating (Mid Split)
When two people are following one another closely it is sometimes not possible to see the gap between them. This may be because the gap is bridged by shadows or perhaps a swinging arm or leg. Tailgating is more likely when the camera is low. A system like Video Turnstile can split people even when there is no clear gap, by simply altering the tailgating or, as it is sometimes known, the mid split setting.
This is the value against which brightness changes in the picture are compared to detect moving people. Decreasing it will make the system more sensitive and may enable the detection of hard-to-see people. Increasing it will tend to remove any shadows and reflections which surround people. This makes it easier to see the gaps between people. On systems like Video Turnstile you can alter the threshold to suit your location.
Typical Width and Area
We define the expected size and shape of a person by two parameters: Typical Width and Typical Area. These are both measured in pixels. The system compares each person with the expected shape and allocates them a score. When people walk so closely together that it is difficult to tell them apart, these parameters help decide whether to count them as two people.
Vehicle Sensing
Counting cars and other vehicles. More…
Video Analytics
Automatically analysing video to detect events, like people walking past.
Video People Counters
Where counting units analyse CCTV or IP-camera pictures and identify people crossing a counting zone.
Video Turnstile
Intelligent video recognition units which count people.
Walking Line
The path someone might take through the counting zone.