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Walkbase takes stock of physical retail

Walkbase analyses crowding and zone popularity on physical sites such as stores, malls and airports.Credits: : iStock.com/estherpoon

Making offline sales as smart as online is merely a matter of harnessing these innovative analytics.

Staff cutbacks. Stores shuttered. Stock declining. E-commerce has seemingly had a profound impact on the fortunes of brick and mortar retailers. Given this cloud of negative publicity, one could be forgiven for assuming that the statistics would tell a bleak story.

Not so, according to Finnish retail analytics provider Walkbase.

“Statistics still show that 80 per cent of all purchases are made in physical stores,” reveals the company’s CMO Juha Mattsson. “It’s only a certain type of shopping that you can really do online. There are many categories where you want to have the physical experience: a conversation with somebody, or touch and feel the products immediately.”

Walkbase is an Internet of Things platform that provides “Google Analytics for physical retail stores”. Using signals emitted by individuals’ smartphones, customer movement is monitored easily, unobtrusively and, most importantly, securely.

“We can analyse how many people come in to a store, where they go, what are the flow times at different locations and the aggregate paths they are taking,” Mattsson explains. “Then we combine these into statistical analysis.”

Collaborative analytics

According to Mattsson, Walkbase has proven to be most useful when optimising store layouts, customer service, merchandising and the store concept in general. By observing people’s behavioural reactions to such modifications, retailers can be agile to select and repeat those improvements that work best to create even better shopping experiences.

In store advertising has also become an emerging focus for the Espoo-based company. Late last year Walkbase partnered with Samsung in the UK to commence selling an augmented advertising solution to British retailers.

Here Walkbase’s technology analyses customer behaviour to create shopper profiles. This data is then used to sell advertising for Samsung’s dynamic screens, as well as determine their optimal placement around the store. Doing away with the posters and banners of yore, these advertising hotspots ensure maximum exposure for the content onscreen.

Elsewhere, the reach of Walkbase’s technology is not confined to the retail sector. In fact, the first time you may have heard of the company was when it announced its collaboration with Finnish airport operator Finavia in 2014. Nowadays, Helsinki Airport’s 16.4 million annual passengers can be dynamically tracked throughout the entire complex thanks to Walkbase.

“We are looking at how to optimise the passenger flows, including queue management,” Mattsson explains. “Then there’s the retail side. And finally the personalised passenger information, which is a mobile application using location-based services.”

Forecasting the future

Back when Walkbase was established in 2010, retail analytics was a relatively unexplored entity. Now, with the rest of the world having finally caught up, the company finds itself positioned most favourably.

Thus, when asked what lies ahead for 2016, it’s somewhat unsurprising that Mattsson divulges an exciting forecast.

“We are planning to make some investments into entering the North American market,” he reveals. “We are likely to publish a significant partnership later this year in regard to this.”

Walkbase is also pushing the envelope once again in future, facilitating innovative engagement with customers.

“This kind of digital technology enables retailers to potentially send personalised offers as people enter stores and move through them,” Mattsson says. “My hunch is that this will be the standard mode of operation in two-three years from now.”

And when this time finally arrives, no doubt Walkbase will already be busying itself with successfully anticipating the next cutting edge development for retail analytics.

Walkbase’s heatmap feature gives retailers and site operators a toolset to analyse customer conversion, paths, loyalty, and other visit patterns. Image: Walkbase
By: James O’Sullivan