Using video analytics to charm the reluctant shopper

Alberto Alonso

I’m not an enthusiastic shopper. I prefer online  shopping; it’s easier, quicker and more comfortable from my sofa. But sometimes I do have to reluctantly venture in-store – so how can I be tempted into the many retail outlets available on the high street? In this post I will explain how retailers can use video analytics to optimize customer experience to avoid losing sales and get ahead of the competition.

Customer perceptions

Today seems to be a nice day to go shopping, it’s not raining and not so cold. I’ve heard radio commercials  promoting a sale in a newly refurbished store nearby. Advertising has worked well on me!

I’m looking specifically for a classic shirt, not the “slim fit” styles that are ubiquitous in men’s clothing stores these days. The store I plan to visit has the tagline: “Clothes for the man of today”. This resonates –  I’m a man of today, am I not? I get into the store and look around. It’s full of people, most of them look like me – a promising start. The background music is not a good omen though, it’s the same noise my teenage sons play at home, not to the taste of the 40-plus-year-old clientele , I suspect. I hope that the store managers are aware of their error.

I walk to the quiet leather jackets section, where prices start at 250€. A black leather jacket has caught my attention, I hope they have it in brown. I wait around for a few minutes but nobody, not even the two staff members chatting nearby, come to help me. I change my mind and decide to stick with just a shirt today, the store has lost a possible 400€ sale. Do they know it?

Moving towards the small area where the shirts are, customers are desperately searching through an unorganized pile for their size. I join the rifling to find what I’m looking for, but must admit it’s not a nice experience. If the store organizers dedicated more space to this section it would be more pleasant I think to myself. But do they realize?

Finally, I’ve found a couple of “classic fit” shirts that I like, so it’s time to pay and leave (in that order).  Unfortunately, as it’s lunch time, everyone has decided to pop out to the shops on their break and there is a large queue at the register. People all around are giving up and leaving. More lost sales for the shop. If the staff realized then they could open another register, but they don’t seem to have noticed their customers’ frustrations.  With a rumble in my stomach, my mind has wandered to my options for lunch and my need for food takes over so I decide to leave the queue. As I exit, I take one more glance at the checkout and notice that they’ve finally opened another register, but it’s too late for me and the many who left before me. I leave without parting with my cash and all I take away is negative association with the store. I am unlikely to return.

Seeing things from the customer’s perspective

My nightmare shopping trip is a prime example of how a good marketing campaign can be ruined by poor in-store management. Very often, I hear retailers talking about learning from customer behavior and understanding shopper preferences. We are all shoppers at some moment in our lives, so it shouldn’t be so difficult to analyze how we behave when we are in a store, what we like and what is so annoying that it makes us buy less or nothing at all.  All of the above situations, all the topics that made me wonder “Have they realized what’s going on?” could have been avoided by using the video and audio technologies of today. With video analytics and intelligent audio, the retailers could easily respond to each sales blocker to avoid bad shopper experiences, improving their sales results and ROI from the marketing campaigns.  In my story, I didn’t buy anything, but could have bought the two shirts and an expensive jacket, and maybe more. With the right analytics helping the store manage customer experience, perhaps my tale would have a happier ending for both me and the retailer.