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Online Analytics For The Offline World: Perception Versus Reality

  
  
  

analytics, retail analytics, people countingIn the world of bricks and mortar retail, there has recently been a lot of talk about “Online Analytics for the Offline World.” It’s a snappy, pithy phrase that seems to promise offline retailers a whole host of insights that are currently the sole domain of online retailers.

But let’s take a moment and step back from the perception of “Online Analytics for the Offline World” and instead focus on the reality. 

The Difference Between Online And Offline Stores

We need to acknowledge that brick and mortar stores resemble online stores primarily in the fact that there is a merchant selling products to customers. Beyond that, there really isn’t a lot that is similar. Let’s take a look at the major differences.

First and foremost, an online retailer has one main location, while an offline retailer may have thousands. Because of this, the path towards implementing changes to optimize store performance based on analytics becomes very different. In an online store, a retailer can change merchandise and layouts based on consumer behavior instantly and at very little cost. In the offline world, making these types of changes based on consumer behavior takes time and money. In an online store, the operational resources required to make these changes amount to the involvement of just a few dedicated resources coupled with select snippets of automated code. In the offline world, an army of resources from the corporate level down to the store level must be engaged to uniformly execute the new strategy across the entire chain. 

Based on the these facts, then, it’s clear that online and offline store are very different indeed. And, as a result, online analytics have evolved to map nicely to the types of rapid changes and relatively simple operational challenges of the online retail environment. The same can't be said for their applicability to offline stores.

In fact, the argument could be made that trying to implement online analytics in an offline store may actually prevent the implementation of analytics that would otherwise deliver the most value in the offline environment. ShopperTrak understands this, and as such, our in-store analytics offerings are carefully chosen to serve our retail customers' needs rather than marketing buzz.

The Difference Between Online And Offline Metrics

Whereas a number of online analytics have limited value in offline environments and only serve to confuse stakeholders with superfluous data, ShopperTrak’s in-store analytics must meet the following three important criteria: scalability, repeatability and actionability. Put another way, a retailer must be able to derive value from our insights every day and in every location.

Therefore, while some may suggest that a metric such as customer dwell time in front of an exterior window display should be the foremost consideration in a retailer’s mind, we believe that a metric like speed of service at a cash wrap is a much more valuable metric for retailers. Think through what you may be able to do with either piece of data in every location on every day, and the answer is clear. One is scalable, repeatable and actionable. The other isn’t.

As the in-store analytics industry continues to evolve, ShopperTrak will continue to maintain a critical eye towards what works best for our customers – and what doesn’t. In the case of “Online Analytics for the Offline World,” we believe that, as an industry, we should continue to recognize the unique limitations and advantages that come with the bricks and mortar environment, and develop new and innovative solutions that serve that environment well.

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