Analytics for physical spaces, really?

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Imagine we’re sat having a beer together and I’m chatting to you about my amazing eCommerce business, you’re naturally curious of course, and ask about how many visitors I have, how often they come, what the conversion rate is, all logical questions given the topic we’re discussing, to which however I look blankly back at you and say “I don’t know”! 

You’d either think I’d gone crazy or was a completely incompetent business person. The thought of not having analytics running on a digital property is somewhat ludicrous and would be almost unheard of. This is, however, the reality of most physical spaces in the world and begs the question, why?

Well, you could start with the question, why would I want analytics in my physical spaces. The simple answer to that is for exactly the same reasons you have them on a digital property and for many more reasons. 

Let’s think about some of the key metrics you track on your digital properties and how they are applicable in a physical environment.

Visitor Numbers

Probably the most looked at statistic and the often the starting point in your data journey, understanding this will tell you the possibility of you achieving your goals, whether they be to sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase, register for an event, or some other goal. This should be no different in the real world but extends further as one example can inform staffing requirements by the hour and day. Given the Covid world we live in this is even more important in making sure occupancy is also at safe levels real-time and historically. 


In a digital world, we may look at the conversion of campaigns such as social, PPC, email, or other channels into website visitors. We can also track that in the physical world but instead of a clickthrough rate we now have a walkthrough rate. We also have another great measure in the real world which is the conversion of people passing a storefront to coming inside and then we can maybe borrow from the online world and do some A/B testing with window displays, signage, etc to see if we can increase that conversion rate.

Bounce Rate

One of the most important metrics for a website, we’ve done all the hard work, spent all those dollars to get someone there and they then bounce straight off so we look at the reasons why that might be, maybe again do some A/B testing to improve. All relevant for the physical world and we can look at additional influences like was it busy at the time, what was my staff to visitor ratios, is it store layout and do different stores do better and why. 

Understand your venues bounce and interaction rate


So they haven’t bounced, hooray all our hard work on optimization, getting staffing levels right, store layout, and occupancy control has paid off but how engaged are they, how long do they stay and your goal for this will differ from a Quick Serve Restaurant to a Mall whereas online typically the longer the better is the goal. 

Understand how customers interact with your venue


This may be a goal on a website for the newsletter, creating an account or some other outcome that allows you to capture a person’s details so you can continue the conversation long after they have left the website and again this should be no different offline. Let’s get them registered on the Guest WiFi network and maybe use that channel to sign them up for the loyalty program. 


Online we’ll be looking at the pages that people visit, the paths they take through the site, and which yield the highest dwell and conversions, which attract more visitors and which have people bouncing (the bad kind). In the real world that is your zones, childrenswear, restaurant, jewelry, a concession, or a stand at an exhibition and we should be considering all those same things and should also be looking at choke points, crowding heatmaps, etc and improving the layout or of staff placement. 

Location heatmap to understand how visitors use your venue

I could go on but this could end up a book not a blog and hopefully, I’ve made my point. The measures we have online are just as relevant offline and honestly even more so. Therefore the question of why would I want analytics in physical spaces I would answer, duh! 

The next question surely then is why haven’t people done it, well there is a get out of jail here. For a long time, people just didn’t know-how. There have been some technologies that answer some of the questions like footfall counters but they are often inaccurate and can’t figure out direction so the numbers in and out get messed up. The world has changed a lot in recent years and now that is completely possible and I am proud to say Purple was fundamental to that happening.

We changed the perception of guest wifi from a utility that needed a sticker in the window to utilizing it to both capture data and gives analytics to many of the above questions but that was only the start of our journey, having acquired an Indoor Wayfinding business last year we brought the outdoor maps we’re so used to from Google, Apple and others indoors where they don’t work and also made them personal to that experience. More recently we have launched our sensors products which can be done with 3D or existing 2D cameras to both improve our existing use cases and bring new ones where accurate occupancy is essential.

The last thing I would say is that pre-Covid this was unbelievably important for spaces to survive and thrive, with the new world we are in I would say it is an imperative the physical world catches up with its digital cousins. 

Naturally, we’re here to help on that journey.

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