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STUDY: Gaining insights into shopper flow

Monday June 6 2011

Birmingham Retail is using used counting technology to understand shopper flow to guide strategic planning, attract inward investment and, above all, draw in the region’s shoppers

Birmingham Retail is using used counting technology to understand shopper flow to guide strategic planning, attract inward investment and, above all, draw in the region’s shoppers

 

Birmingham Retail is a not-for-profit organisation founded to help Birmingham city centre achieve its full potential as the region’s main shopping, leisure and lifestyle destination.

 

It needed to understand shopper flow around the city centre at all times of the day and night to guide strategic planning, attract inward investment and, above all, draw in the region’s shoppers.

 

The organisation works in close partnership with Birmingham City Council, which in 2009 installed Experian FootFall’s thermal imaging counting systems to monitor shopper flows in and around its city centre.

 

Expert knowledge essential

 

When considering its choice of partner, Retail Birmingham’s project co-ordinator, Chris Hurst, said: “Experian FootFall was the logical choice. This is one of the largest projects of its type in the public realm so we wanted to make sure our partners were the acknowledged experts in their field. Experian FootFall’s reputation goes before them and we knew we could trust them to deliver.”

 

The project saw 20 cameras installed in 12 strategically placed locations, which allow Retail Birmingham to monitor pedestrian traffic at any given hour of the day and understand the impact on shopper movements of the major infrastructure developments currently underway. These include the Ł600-million New Street station redevelopment and the extension of the Midlands Metro along Corporation Street.

 

Hurst explained that aesthetics were important: “We didn’t want unsightly camera cables trailing over walls. Nor did we want to incur the disruption and expense of digging up roads to lay them underground so the ability to use the 3G mobile phone network was a godsend. The camera installations themselves are very subtle and sympathetic to building style.”

 

The Retail Birmingham team receives weekly summary reports from Experian FootFall and has access to daily interactive reports that allow them to drill down into the data, examining it from numerous angles. Hurst finds this gives them invaluable insights.

 

He said: “The analytics service Experian FootFall gives us is very powerful. The ability to pick a location and understand what’s happening is hugely important to us. It helps in event planning, measuring the effectiveness of marketing activity, gauging the turnout for events, focusing our street warden activity and making many other day-to-day decisions. We like to think we know our city centre well but, instead of acting on hunches, with Experian FootFall we’re working with hard facts.”

 

Building citywide benchmark

 

Joanne Dolan, senior account manager for Experian FootFall, added: “As Experian FootFall covers every shopping centre in Birmingham, we have been able to build a specific Birmingham Index, which allows all the centres to benchmark their performance against others in the city.”

 

Retail Birmingham finds being able to compare its performance against Experian FootFall’s local, regional, national and European indices of shopping centres especially useful. Hurst commented: “I can report back to retailers that based on credible data, Birmingham city centre is performing relatively well compared with the rest of the UK. Whereas nationally footfall trends are declining year on year, we are bucking the trend and showing an increase of almost 2%.”

 

Hurst is enthusiastic about the service he receives from partner Experian FootFall, noting: “So often these days you’re talking to a recording or dealing with people a thousand miles away. The people I deal with at Experian FootFall are local, know the area well and are proactive and knowledgeable. The level of customer service we receive is superb and over the years we have built a strong working relationship.”