Hot on their trails: How retailers are using heat maps to increase in-store conversions

by Infor Retail May 9, 2016 Customer Experience

Like their online counterparts, brick-and-mortar retailers need to leverage shopping behavior to improve the customer experience. While it’s easy for retailers to collect data on what shoppers buy, there’s also a wealth of value in information about where merchandise is placed and what items shoppers are attracted to, decide against, ignore, or never see.

To address these concerns and better plan for future shopper experiences, retailers are using beacons, WiFi, analytic camera software and other technologies to generate heat maps. These thermal images are used to aggregate shoppers’ whereabouts in brick-and-mortar stores, and can even give insight into how customers engage with their products.

With the help of heat mapping technology, retailers are improving the way they respond to shoppers and continuing to innovate the user experience—while also planning for better assortment, more effective in-store signage, and improved traffic flow throughout their stores.

Evaluating merchandise and store layout

Since store managers can’t be everywhere at once, heat maps can improve the shopper experience by continuously monitoring day-to-day operations. By aggregating in-store shopper activity, heat maps help retailers zero in on things like heavier-than-normal crowding around popular merchandise—prompting managers to set up additional displays. Or, an analysis of traffic patterns can pinpoint dead zones or bottlenecks that may be remedied by adjusting store layouts or replacing or relocating merchandise.

Heat maps help create actionable insights for retailers by:

  • Determining which displays are being visited most and least frequently
  • Tracking which ads are driving shoppers to displays most effectively
  • Timing how long shoppers remain at a display or in the store
  • Gauging if in-store signage is helpful in driving traffic

Analyzing customer engagement

While experimenting with product placement and store layouts isn’t new, heat maps make the analysis workable on a different scale. These new technologies go beyond analyzing foot traffic—now retailers can see what shoppers touch.

According to the Journal of Consumer Research, touching items increases the probability of purchase—especially with products where texture, weight, hardness, and temperature are deciding factors. If items that are normally touched by shoppers aren’t getting attention, retailers can begin to investigate why. For example, if an item is picked up often and rarely purchased, retailers can assume that the price may be too expensive—or that there may be an issue with quality or material.

Retailer chains can also use heat maps on a wider scale, by comparing a map from one location to that of another. By testing new strategies or layouts in one or multiple locations, retailers are able to see which models are worthy of rolling out to the whole chain—before making a large upfront investment in a strategy that may not resonate with shoppers.

Using in-store paths, a heat map—in conjunction with a retailer’s mobile app—can also suggest related purchases to shoppers. For example, the route of a shopper in a sporting goods store going from the sunscreen section to the waterproof footwear section suggests the shopper is going on an outing near water. The retailer’s app can then offer a discount on a windbreaker or polarized sunglasses.

Heat mapping is not only great for retailers in terms of merchandise planning, assortment, and increasing sales. These innovative technologies are also working behind the scenes to bring customers a more streamlined, tailored, and pleasant brick-and-mortar experience.


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