A retail store visit during COVID
By StoreTech's Head of Technology and Operations, David Kennett
Manually counting people using a clicker or even a simple tally counter app may be easy to set up, but costly in terms of sparing a member of staff as well the inaccuracies that come with human counting.
Let me recount a recent COVID-19’ shopping experience and you will soon see what I mean.
How accurate is a manual counter?
It was a Sunday morning and my wife had asked me to collect two pairs of trousers she had ordered from a fashion retailer; the nearest out-of-town store was only 5 minutes away from home and is far nicer than going into town, not least because of the free parking.
A new Marks and Spencer had also opened up close-by, which I’m sure will help both businesses and encourage more out-of-town visitors.
Once we’d parked in the free car park, we walked over to the ‘new normal’ orderly queue that forms outside just about every multiple retailer up and down the country.
The staff member who had been given the job of standing outside the store and letting shoppers in was using what looked like a phone app to help her count and record each person in.
However, at the same time, she was having to look behind her at the exit door (which before COVID-19 was just another entrance) to see how many customers had left before updating her tally counter app.
This worked fine when there was a clear one in and one out, but not so well when this member of staff was seen as ‘the store greeter’ by shoppers and began to get involved in conversations with shoppers in the queue, which is just what we saw when we left the store after our short and easy click and collect.
Using the ‘new normal’ exit door, I glanced back over to the entrance door which was about 40ft away, and could see the staff member having quite a conversation with two shoppers at the front of the queue, leaving her with no opportunity to turn around and see me and my wife leaving the store. And yes, behind us walking out were more shoppers.
This leads me to believe that having a ‘maximum number of shoppers in the store’ policy, may sound fine in principle, but in practice, when it relies on a single staff member having eyes in the back of their head, doesn’t work quite so well.
So unfortunately in this real example, there will be an ever reduced number of shoppers in the store, with longer and longer queues outside, which coincidentally has put us off many times before, as queuing at the best of times is boring, but doing it outside the store is just no fun.
An occupancy solution with >99% accuracy
I guess it's like having an occupancy counter that is only 80% accurate. Why would you go with that?
One member of staff on £8.20 an hour on a Sunday for 6 trading hours would have cost the retailer £49.20. Whereas two automated occupancy counters with >99% accuracy would have cost the retailer less than 10% of that one staff member day pay.
Manually counting shoppers with a clicker or an app, and having a single entrance or multiple can undoubtedly challenge the ability to accurately count shoppers in and out of a retailer. Staff can get distracted, they have many roles to carry out. Shoppers don’t always act predictably, and they sometimes want to engage with a member of staff.
Re-examining how to manage occupancy within a retail environment, not just for the health and safety of staff and shoppers, but also in assisting the store's ability to serve those shoppers that do venture out in this current COVID-19 climate, is crucial for retailer survival.
To find out more about our >99%
accurate occupancy counters, get in touch.