Mall managements use foot traffic data to drive business

Mall managements use foot traffic data to drive business

Mumbai: If you are under 12 and alone at a mall, chances are you won’t be considered foot traffic, or footfall in retail jargon. But if you are accompanied by an older person, you will be counted as a customer.

“When a child is alone, they may not have the money to buy at a mall," explains Samar Sheikhawat, vice-president (marketing) at Spencer’s Retail Ltd, which runs a chain of supermarkets and neighbourhood stores. “But, when they are with family, they are more likely to buy and influence family purchase decisions."

So, at stores belonging to Spencer’s, a security guard who typically also hands out shopping carts or bags is often charged with clicking a handheld number counter. At other malls, guards might check off in a register every time a customer walks in. The data is then given by the hour to a manager who, in turn, gives a daily tally sheet to the head of mall operations.

With some malls across India’s cities clocking as many as 75,000 every weekend, mall managements are putting out foot traffic data to attract retailers, advertisements, promotions and signages—all aimed at boosting revenues.

A busy mall can now earn as much as Rs25 lakh a month by running advertisements and promotions for various brands. But, much of this is based on data that is still subjective and somewhat quirky. As a result, managers are investing in sophisticated technology to measure traffic and patterns.

Experian International Ltd, a UK-based information services company, for one, has sold a new offering that uses video and thermal imaging devices to keep score, to two Indian mall developers. Inorbit Malls India Pvt. Ltd, which runs a mall in Mumbai’s western suburb of Malad, will pilot this new technology.

“We use such technology to calculate total footfalls, and hot and cold zones in a mall," says Anand Sundaram, Inorbit’s vice-president national commerical operations. “This way, we know which area of the mall needs what sort of shop and plan placements accordingly."

Experian executives say their technology costs between Rs12 and Rs25 lakh. But not all retailers are convinced that hi-tech is the way to go. It is the duty manager’s responsibility to make sure foot traffic is measured accurately and this is taken very seriously, says Girish Pande, chief operating officer of E-City Property Management and Services Pvt. Ltd, a mall management company. His company uses registers, clickometers and cameras at their malls, but he admits to an error margin of around 10%. At Kshitij Investment Advisory Co. Ltd, which has developed and runs five malls, traffic is only measured by guards with registers and the margin for error is about 10% said G.J. Singh, Kshitij’s head for mall management.