A 3 Part Video Series
With unique insights into customer traffic data, we take an in-depth look at how the pandemic has altered shopper behaviors, how new industries have been introduced to SenSource’s technology, and how customer service is taking a leading role in customer loyalty.
Don’t miss out on this series as we interview key personnel here at SenSource to discuss these important topics about the post-Covid consumer.
The Post-Covid Consumer: Someone Worth Counting
Episode #1: Pandemic Induced Shifts in Retail Consumer Behavior… Forever?
As a provider of foot traffic collection systems, we at SenSource have a unique vantage point of the retail industry. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen changes in how and why our retail customers seek out SenSource technologies for their stores. We hope to capture that insight in our discussions as we interview key personnel from our office, including our General Manager and Marketing, Software, and Technical Support leaders.
In our three-part video series, we’re taking a look at shifts in retail consumer behavior. The Covid-19 pandemic made dramatic changes in how people shop. In this first video, Andy Clutter, Marketing Director, and Jessica Lipply, Marketing Coordinator, will take a look at which behavior changes are likely to stick.
Historically, retailers knew their shoppers’ behaviors, it was very predictable. They knew the times and hours of the day that shoppers would come, peak seasons, it was all very routine.
And I’m sure you can think back on your own shopping experiences and think of how consistent those were. But obviously when the pandemic hit, our shopping habits had to change. Stores that were labeled as non-essential had to close their doors and we had to learn new ways of going about getting what we needed.
And Andy, you do a lot of the grocery shopping for your family, so just tell us a little about how your shopping has changed since the onset of the pandemic.
I do a lot of the grocery shopping for the family. It’s something I’ve always done, even before we had kids at home. It’s something I enjoy doing and I do a lot of the cooking as well, so I know what I’m looking for.
But the biggest change, I would say, is before the pandemic, grocery shopping was a family outing. We would go have lunch, we would take our time going through the store, and we would just load up the car with everybody.
Now that has significantly changed. Now it’s a one-man show, I go on my own, I get in and out. I would say behaviors and buying habits have changed, specifically when it came to grocery shopping.
We are located in Ohio, so our retail consumer behavior may be a little different than yours depending on where you are, our viewers. But Andy, did you come across a lot of stores that had occupancy limits?
There were quite a few stores that were monitoring occupancy and keeping their eye on it – whether it was employees sitting at the front with a pen and paper, just keeping track of how many people were coming and going – or if it was just some type of guideline. My particular grocery store, for example, has a number on the door and said you cannot exceed this number of people in the store, but it didn’t really seem like anyone was actively patrolling it.
Even this far down the road, I think a lot of people are still trying to avoid the crowds, they don’t want to go into a crowded store right now.
And with that, and the social distancing and the cleaning and knowing that shoppers’ behaviors have changed, the retailer had to react. Their routine had to change as well to make the customer feel welcome, and invited, and safe.
Andy what are your thoughts on that struggle that businesses are dealing with right now?
Businesses are relearning their customers’ habits on the fly. And what we’ve noticed in particular in the retail segment, habits are always changing, always evolving, but a lot of that takes time – it takes years and decades for those habits to emerge.
And what we’re seeing here are dramatic shifts in shopping habits in the last 12 months. And what we’ve seen historically is businesses rely a lot on point of sale data to learn what their customers are doing, what they’re buying. And then also, retailers rely on foot traffic data. And those are two independent data streams that are kind of siloed, so you can look at either one of those data streams and learn something from them about your customers. But when you combine those two streams of data, it really helps you learn and identify habits.
So we talked a little bit about these changing behaviors, but which of these do you think are going to fade away and which of these do you think are going to stick with us into the future?
A lot of things that have emerged over the last 6 to 12 months are here to stay. I think things like curbside pickup, delivery services, those things are going to be around awhile and that’s not a bad thing for retailers, it’s just a different way to win some business. But now there’s a different battle to be won – hey, let’s make our services be the best that they can be. And I think that customer loyalty is going to be a battle whether it’s in a store or through these services that is stronger than ever before.
Yes, regardless of the changes in retail consumer behaviors, the shopper always wants the best service and the best customer service that they can get. And according to a report we found from Talk Desk Research, the post-covid shopper’s customer service expectations are higher than they were a year ago. So in episode three in our series here, we’re going to talk with our customer support manager, Dan Bricker, and discuss how those higher expectations are being met here at SenSource as well as our customers’ end-customers on their end’s expectations as well.
The Post-Covid Consumer: Someone Worth Counting
Episode #2: A Dynamic Product for Post-Covid Retail
Over the last 19 years, we’ve witnessed first-hand the advancements to people counting technology. From basic, break-beam style sensors of the early 2000’s to the advanced stereo-video technology of today.
Traditionally, traffic data was used to calculate a store’s conversion rate or predict future traffic trends. While those are still valid applications, the pandemic brought about new reasons for retailers to seek out automated people counters.
In this second video of our three-part series, Jessica Lipply, Marketing Coordinator, sits down with Dan Aluise, GM, and Jeremy Forsythe, Director of Software Engineering, to discuss how SenSource has adapted its technology to meet the changing needs of post-Covid retailers.
Post-Covid Retail Video Transcript:
Back in March of 2020, we were like most businesses, slightly panicked about the shutdowns and not really knowing what the future held because of the pandemic. I remember thinking that the COVID scare and the shutdowns would last maybe a week and then one week turned into two weeks and then months and here we are a year down the road and we’re still not completely back to normal.
It’s interesting to look back over this year and see how much has changed. Even our vocabulary has changed – we use words like “social distancing” which we never used before a year ago. And the need for social distancing has played a part in business operations in the way retailers have had to limit their occupancy to ensure that people are staying six feet apart.
Dan, you work closely with our Sales department, you see most every opportunity that comes to SenSource. How would you say that the pandemic has affected the industries that we serve?
I think the first thing that we noticed when the pandemic hit was seeing interest from industries that never really had an interest in automatic people counting.
Our system kind of pivoted from more business operations, kind of a historical reporting tool, to a safety system. That unlocked a lot of markets that had a hard time determining their occupancy, maybe because there was multiple doors or a big area or maybe a closed off area and they couldn’t monitor the occupancy and that’s where our system came into play.
That’s right, like grocery stores weren’t a typical customer of ours, but because of the need to track occupancy that led them to SenSource.
Jeremy, can you explain how we reacted? What’s the story there of how SenSource reacted to this need for real-time data?
One benefit of the way we structured the company and our department is our ability to quickly jump in and make novel solutions to these problems.
So we rapidly designed and implemented SafeSpace real-time occupancy system within the space of a couple weeks – if you know about software development, that’s breakneck speed for a system of that scale. This included smart TV apps so that we could show the data to the end-customer for the first time as well as mobile apps to get that data into the hands of managers so they can make decisions on safety and the health of their customers in real-time.
And they were forward-thinking as well with what’s next and what do we need to develop that our customers are going to need. Because not only was this a new product for us, it was a new problem that we were solving for our customers as well with the pandemic being new to all of us.
So how did we go about developing those parts for our customers?
So we had taken data from the sensor in real-time with very little latency. We display that on the televisions and on the mobile app for the managers to make instant decisions about whether to shut down the line or to let more people in.
Yes, and all of these things happened in rapid succession. We’re talking days and weeks for this type of development that usually, what Jeremy, takes months?
Months or years at a normal corporate scale.
So our product came about because of an immediate need that essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies and restaurants had. And moving forward, post-Covid retail still has a need for an occupancy system and even more than that just counting traffic of people coming in and out of your facility.
Can we touch on again just how this data is impacting different industries?
SafeSpace, at its bare-bones, is a traffic control system, but what we see a need for going forward is to keep that intact – those capacities might fluctuate as things loosen up, maybe tighten back down again – so it’s nice to have that flexibility. But there’s a lot of other value you can get out of this, really to drive customer experience. Our sensors that we use can be used not just to monitor threshold counting, they can monitor things like wait-time and queue metrics, how many lanes are open, what’s the max wait time of a customer.
And I think all industries across the board realize how powerful and important that data is and the pandemic has just sped up the process of implementing technologies. Pandemic or not, that data is not going to go out of style. Like you’ve probably seen in our first episode, we touched on the customer experience.
Yes, so customer experience is huge going forward with retailers. It’s difficult to rely on pre-COVID data to know how to change your staffing levels because of the changing behaviors and different traffic patterns of customers and when they’re coming into your store. So it’s important to have accurate, current data to go on to help you with your staffing levels.
Using our predictive metrics to know when you’re going to need to staff people, when the busy times are coming up, those are really important. Using real-time data we have coming into the SafeSpace system going forward is going to help deliver value to your customers long-term.
Thank you Dan and Jeremy for joining us!
The Post-Covid Consumer: Someone Worth Counting
Episode #3: Customer Service: More Important Than Ever – SenSource is Ready
This video wraps up our three part series diving into the post-Covid consumer. Throughout the series, we have interviewed key personnel at SenSource for unique insights on how consumer behaviors have shifted as a result of the pandemic and how retailers have adapted. As retailers come to SenSource for people counting tools, we have gained behind-the-scenes knowledge of how retailers are turning to data and technology to stay ahead in their rapidly changing industry.
In the midst of these changes, consumers still hold high expectations for their retail experiences. In this video, we sit down with SenSource’s Technical Support Director, Dan Bricker, for his take on meeting post-pandemic customer service expectations.
Post-Covid Retail Video Transcript:
Hello, and welcome to our final video in this series about the post-Covid consumer. I’m Jessica Lipply, Marketing Coordinator here at SenSource and today I’m joined by Dan Bricker our Technical Support Director.
Today we’re going to talk about how the pandemic has made customer service more important than ever before.
Over the past year, we’ve seen how the pandemic has greatly shifted consumer behaviors and their expectations. And how retailers have had to react to that in record time with things like curbside pickup and delivery services. And according to Talk Desk Research, 68% of consumers agree that it only takes one bad experience to reduce brand loyalty. The research also shows that 84% of consumers expect their questions or problems to be solved swiftly and correctly.
Dan, you work with SenSource’s customer every day – you and your team. Do you feel that this research is an accurate reflection of how customers expectations have changed?
Absolutely, we work with our customers to try and resolve their problems swiftly, utilizing a lot of technology, kind of the same way their trying to solve their problems with our technology. We have some technology we use for trouble tickets and phone systems to try and help answer their questions and get them back in business or get them the information they need as quickly as possible.
We’re still emerging from the pandemic and retailers are fighting for business. We’re offering reporting tools and technologies that are going to help them with these problems, maybe like staffing. Can you tell us a little but about the reporting tools and maybe how SenSource is helping our customers to meet their customers’ expectations.
You know, the retailers are looking for more predictive numbers, something we can provide in our platform, to help them with staffing. And then for the shoppers themselves, that best time to shop report that we offer allows a retailer to convey to his shoppers when is that best time to be there, when the attendance inside the facility is low. Those two reports combined with just normal historical reporting gives a lot of power back to the retailers to make those decisions.
That’s right. Customer service has always been important for retailers, but now that they’re fighting for business, coming back from the pandemic, customer service is more important now than ever. They’re using data like SenSource, not only on the operational side to improve their marketing and staffing, but also on a customer-facing level that’s going to prove their customer service by making customer feel safe coming to your store knowing that you care about them arriving when it’s not a crowded time.
Like we say, not only are our customers mindful of their customers’ well-being, we at SenSource are mindful of our retailers. We take our customer service very seriously, we have a fully staffed in-house department for technical support that Dan operates. And they’re dealing with 600-800 contact points per week, which is insane.
Yeah, it gets crazy at times, for sure!
And then additionally, we’ve invested in a new position this year, our Customer Success Specialist. Could you tell us about that?
Yeah, she’s a liaison between your sales person and my department in technical support, kind of working back and forth if there are issues that get back to sales or working with any customers that contact in. It’s going to be a great tool internally here and for the general success of any project our customers might want. She’s been going at it for a couple months now and we’ve had great success so far.
That’s great. Because part of our customer service is not just that beginning portion of onboarding our customers. We want to make sure that the lifetime of you using our people counting sensors that you’re finding it meaningful and keeping that communication open. So if there are requests that you may have or questions on new developments, that we’re always there and ready to answer those.
So here we’re always looking for new ways to support our customers, like Dan said earlier, always using the latest and greatest technology and really keeping our customers’ voice in mind with what we do here. And that’s why we say, you can count people with people you can count on.
Thanks Dan for joining us!
That wraps up our last video in the post-COVID consumer series. If you missed the first two, go to our YouTube channel and you’ll find them. Thanks!