Retail Dwell Time – the Route to Higher Spending

Dwell Time – the length of time a person spends looking at a display or remains a specific area. An essential retail metric for analysing shopping behaviour and increasing customer spending.

The longer a person stands looking at a display, the more likely they are to buy something. Measuring this dwell time, and acting to improve it, will increase sales.

Using Dwell Time Metrics to Increase Sales

A study by Pathintelligence showed that “there is a significant and positive relationship between dwell time and sales“. They found that a 1% increase in dwell time resulted in a 1.3% increase in sales.

What does this mean in practice? Suppose a person looked at a display for 5 seconds. If the retailer could get them to stay there for 10 seconds, according to the study that would result in a 130% increase in sales. The retailer can test what measures increase the dwell time in that department department and, with the dwell time linked to the Point-of-Sale (POS) system, whether this increased the sales conversion and by how much. The actual figures for their store would accurately show the improvement in dwell time and sales.

Of course, just making someone wait longer to be served or helped by a member of staff is not going to increase sales. But measuring dwell time around a store also lets you pinpoint any bottlenecks and take remedies to fix them (see our case study: Cracking the case of the missing grocery sales).

As well as evaluating and improving the effectiveness of displays, knowing where customers go and stay within a store enables managers to optimise store layout for increased sales.

Acting on dwell time lets retailers

  1. Learn how customers move through the store and interact with displays
  2. Learn where to place their most profitable items
  3. Test and learn which display layouts and signage work best to encourage people to buy more items
  4. Reduce unprofitable waiting times around a store
  5. Optimise store layout

Measuring dwell time is the start of the path to enhanced customer experience, optimised store performance and higher profitability.

How to measure Dwell Time?

A video sensing system tracks the path people take through a store and their dwell times at different locations. Intelligent people-sensing units connect with overhead cameras to monitor and time customers’ progress. The customer isn’t identified so privacy is protected, complying with GDPR. Data is logged by the units and regularly sent back to a central computer, over wi-fi or Ethernet for example. The system also measures footfall and integrates with POS information to produce real-time sales conversion figures.

The dwell time and path data is often displayed as a “heat map” – where different colours are overlayed on a map of a store or department to show the most popular areas and routes.

Heat map of dwell times in a store
Heat map of where people linger in a children’s clothing store, showing where improvements might be made

The system can cope with changing light levels, cluttered backgrounds and crowded scenes. It is infinitely scaleable – local video analytics minimises bandwidth use. The return on investment can be as little as a few months.

Dwell Time is not Just for Stores

Many different types of business benefit from measuring dwell time. Museums and art galleries use dwell time to measure the popularity of the exhibits. Shopping centres can act on dwell times to optimise their layouts. The system enables many different types of organisations to analyse visitor behaviour.


Time is Money, Shoppers buy more when they stay longer, David McAdams and Sharon Biggar, 2007.
The Slower You Shop, the More You Spend, The Wall Street Journal, 2015.

How to increase sales by 30% in just a few months

Retail Sensing

Retail Sensing manufacture the Video Turnstile people counting, vehicle sensing and smart city equipment. Our systems not only measure footfall and traffic, but monitor queues, display occupancy, track shoppers around stores, show heat maps of most visited areas, record passenger numbers, count pedestrians and provide retail intelligence and key performance indicators.

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