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!
In our next episode, we’ll discuss how customer service is more important now than ever before. And we’ll be joined by our Director of Technical Support, Dan Bricker.
Episode 1: Retail Consumer Behavior >>