Today’s high street retailers are under immense pressure. This is not only due to the increase in online sales, but also the rise in consumers purchasing through their mobiles while in bricks-and-mortar-stores – as well as and the rise in competition by huge online-driven businesses such as Amazon and Zalando. According to Ofcom, the average adult internet user claims to spend over 20 hours online per week, while recent research from ING revealed 84 per cent of shoppers buying through a mobile device instead of popping to the shops in the past 12 months – astonishing figures.

It’s now time for retailers to start taking the shopping experience to a whole new level. Retail analytics is not a new concept; it is something that many retailers have been fine-tuning over the years to improve their business. In fact, virtually all online retailers base their success on heavy data and analytics – everything is measured, optimised and personalised real-time, down to each individual customer.

In brick-and-mortar stores, this approach has faced several challenges. First, the traditional data sources have been limited to point-of-sale data and door counters, while expensive one-off in-store studies have been set aside. As well as this, many physical stores are blinkered in their efforts to try and understand customer behaviour in-store. The approach to retail analytics has been largely based on heavy customer behaviour studies, often requiring a tailored and very expensive approach to data analysis. This makes it slow to react to changes in day-to-day store operations and marketing, and is often unattainable for specialist retail needs.

The solution for retailers is to instead invest in real-time Wi-Fi analytics inside the physical store to understand customers, rather than rely on online data. Modern in-store analytics technologies can now tap into a store’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to capture precisely and in real-time how we all behave in stores. From passing-by to exactly where we go, how long we stay, up to the register and beyond. The prolific use of smartphones enables the use of new and advanced technologies for this level of data collection. Compared to any other technology, Wi-Fi analytics is clearly the most cost-effective, with several advantages such as real-time analytics and providing accurate data from all corners of a store. It’s like Google Analytics for the physical store.

But this should only be part of the solution. The high street needs to create an inclusive shopping experience that seamlessly combines the online and offline experience, and provide a fluent path between each of these channels. If consumers are able to start their purchase path in one place and continue seamlessly in other, this creates the ease that they’re looking for.

By combining analytics and content in both online and offline media, retailers will be able to:

  1. Improve the shopping experience – enabling retailers to rapidly analyse the impacts from their actions and to perfect their store layouts, ad displays and in-store and window marketing to achieve an optimal customer experience.
  1. Understand how the in-store experience impacts conversion – retailers will gain deeper insight into customer behaviour within the store. The tracking of shopping patterns and dwell times opens up countless possibilities for both shopping malls as well as individual stores for optimising in-store operations, such as store locations and store layout.
  1. Tailor in-store advertising – data analytics allow retailers to understand customers’ habits and behaviour in-store, helping businesses tailor in-store advertising to individuals, identify best ad locations, and focus on the best advertising times that bring in the highest return on investment.

As the use of both online and offline media continues to grow, retailers need to embrace the offline data benefits and be smart about how they use in-store analytics to accurately deliver conversions at the till, creating a truly personalised customer experience. This will only become more important as retailers adapt their customer-facing operations. As high street stores face an increasingly challenging environment to compete with online series, it is vital that they fight back now and merge online and offline data to create new monetisation opportunities, as well as an enhanced in-store experience for all.

Luckily, physical stores also have properties that online stores can never steal – the atmosphere of a physical space, ability to touch and feel products, personalised face-to-face service, and so on. It is no surprise the online giants like Amazon are below radars looking into expanding into physical stores.

Juha Mattsson

Juha Mattsson


Juha Mattsson is the CMO at Walkbase.