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Management and operations

Painting the bigger picture: What footfall data can really tell you

Discover the power of footfall data in understanding and enhancing the performance of shopping centers, retail parks, and city streets. Explore the metrics, measurement methods, and external factors that influence footfall in this insightful blog post. Learn how to leverage footfall analytics to boost your property's success.

For anyone looking to track volume and sales performance in shopping centres, retail parks and city streets, footfall data is a pretty fundamental metric.

Beside telling you how many individuals visited your property within a given timeframe, fluctuations in footfall can form part of a bigger story about how internal and external factors contribute to performance.

That is, of course, if you have the proper means to measure it. In this blog, we’ll explore the concept of footfall and what it can really tell you.

What is footfall?

Before we dive in, let’s define what we mean when we talk about footfall.

Footfall, often referred to as pedestrian traffic or visitors' flow, is a metric that quantifies the number of individuals who pass through a specific location within a given timeframe. It's a measure of commercial space's popularity and vibrancy.

It encompasses both the volume and patterns of people traversing a particular area, offering valuable insights into consumer behaviour and trends.

But it’s only one part of a much larger story. Viewed alone, footfall can tell you how many people passed through your property - but little else. 

How to measure footfall data

Unless you have a very enthusiastic employee who’s willing to perform an ongoing headcount of people passing through your property, the most common and efficient means of measuring footfall is with a footfall tracker.

Footfall trackers employ a range of techniques to accurately measure visitor volume. 

How to count footfall

  • Video Analytics: Video analytics sensors use cameras strategically placed in specific locations to capture real-time video footage. These cameras are equipped with software that processes the video feed and identifies and tracks individuals based on their movement. The software distinguishes between pedestrians and other objects, allowing it to count the number of people passing through a particular area.

  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Tracking: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tracking sensors work by detecting the signals emitted by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. These devices continuously emit signals that can be picked up by sensors within their range. By analysing the strength and proximity of these signals, the sensors can estimate the number of people present and their movement.

  • Thermal Imaging Sensors: Thermal imaging sensors detect the heat emitted by objects, including human bodies. By focusing on heat signatures, these sensors can detect and count individuals without capturing personal information like facial features.

Using footfall analytics to paint the bigger picture

Now that we've covered the basics, let’s explore some of the things that footfall data can tell you about the wider world that your commercial property inhabits.

Footfall data can be affected by a range of micro and macro factors. Some may be local and temporary, others may point to larger systemic trends which require a focal shift in strategy.

Let’s explore some factors that affect footfall both positively and negatively, and consider what you can do in response. 

Urban planning and maintenance 

As city dwellers tire of air pollution, congestion and poor road safety, local governments around the world are investing millions into improving walking routes, pedestrianising busy shopping streets and implementing traffic calming measures.

Unsurprisingly, the reception of these policies are mixed.

Many business advocates and economists celebrate the positive impact of traffic calming and pedestrianisation. Moreover, they have data to back up their claims. One case study from Wanstead, East London observed that improved walking routes to and from the high street increased footfall by 98%.

Others claim that such policies are harmful to business, citing reduced accessibility and lost patronage from shoppers travelling by car.

Each case is different, but when measuring fluctuations in footfall—consider any traffic calming or pedestrianisation initiatives that might negatively or positively impact it.

For example, let’s say you see a dip in footfall after a pedestrianisation of a busy thoroughfare.

First consider any data you might have on where your commercial tenants’ customers have travelled from in the past, and how. If many customers came by car from far off locations—consider investing in local marketing to attract clientele for the immediate vicinity.

eCommerce and online shopping 

 The rise of e-commerce has transformed consumer behaviour, allowing people to shop conveniently from their homes. This trend can lead to reduced footfall in brick-and-mortar stores.

But this doesn’t spell the death of physical retail as we know it. Retailers and commercial property managers simply need to think of novel ways to bring shoppers to their doors.

While online shopping is incredibly convenient - it has its limits. Depending on the product, there’s still a large portion of shoppers who wish to experience the product in the flesh before buying it.

Therefore, it’s important for retailers to consider ways to offer the kind of experiences that cannot be found online. 

Remote working  

Remote working has irrevocably changed the way we interact with urban and commercial spaces. The newfound flexibility has reshaped the conventional ebb and flow of cities, which has profoundly affected footfall patterns.

Previously bustling city centres now experience a notable reduction in foot traffic, particularly among non-city residents whose presence has dwindled to a mere 26% of pre-pandemic levels.

This correlates with a stark decline in office occupancy which has remained below 50% in most major European cities as of June 2022.

Is your property in a business district that has traditionally relied heavily on work-related weekday footfall? Have you observed a stark decline in footfall since before the pandemic? It might be worth looking into your existing data to find any patterns that might account for this drop.

Moreover, what can you do to return footfall back to healthy levels? 

  • Introduce mixed use spaces—Amenitisation has become a popular strategy to bring people back to commercial spaces post-pandemic. Integrating leisure facilities, recreational spaces, even residential units into formerly single-use commercial spaces can do a lot to rebuild communities and revive local economies.

  • Invest in local online marketing initiatives—tap into the potential of your community by targeting locals with ads that bring them into your commercial properties. This can make up for loss in footfall from shoppers further out from your property.

  • Organise and promote regular events—Events can grow awareness and bring more visitors through your door. Property and community managers can use a tenant communication app like Chainels to organise and promote events that encourage footfall.  

Combining footfall data with other metrics

As we’ve shown, fluctuations in footfall can have a broad range of causes. It’s therefore important to accurately track your footfall data and understand the external factors that might influence it, so you can respond accordingly.

But footfall alone can only tell you so much. An increase in footfall means little if it’s not paired with an increase in other metrics like average transaction value (ATV) and turnover.

So look for these correlations in your data. High footfall but low ATV might indicate that people are passing through your property but not spending money. Armed with this knowledge, you can initiate strategies to help your commercial tenants attract passing foot traffic.

On the other hand, you might observe lower footfall but higher ATV which would indicate that although less people are visiting your properties, this smaller set of visitors actually spend more money.

This could indicate that your marketing efforts, or simply your location, is allowing you to attract the right people to your properties - you can then tailor your marketing and operations to optimise this situation. 

Listen to what footfall tells you

In summary, footfall isn't merely about counting feet—it's a window into consumer dynamics and external influences shaping your property's performance. By interpreting footfall alongside other key metrics, asset managers can make informed choices that maximise their properties' potential.

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