- Time-of-flight technology helps Premier League clubs measure footfall into retail stores
- Ipsos looks to help clubs improve sales conversion rates and make better use of resources
- Retail revenue growth is “an open goal” for Premier League clubs if done right
Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers has engaged Ipsos Retail Performance to install footfall-counting technology in its club megastore as it looks to maximise merchandising revenues.
The club, which was playing in the third tier of English football as recently as 2014 but is now competing in the top half of the Premier League and latter stages of the Uefa Europa League, has been searching for ways to fully realise the potential of its retail performance following the boost in interest and attendances at its Molineux Stadium over the last few years.
That search has led it to becoming the fifth Premier League club to appoint Ipsos Retail Performance to help measure footfall at its club Megastore, where so-called “Time of Flight” technology has been installed into the entrances, tracking every individual who enters the shop over the course of its opening hours.
Wolves’ average home attendance has risen by 10,000 over the course of the last two years, since the club was promoted to the Premier League. That has, naturally, seen a commensurate increase in the number of visitors to the Megastore and in matchday merchandise revenues (the club declines to disclose numbers here) but Vinny Clark, head of retail and licensing at Wolves, believes a smarter approach to retail can help to increase that even further.
“Understanding footfall data is imperative in the successful operation of our retail business,” Clark tells SportBusiness. “We are always looking to improve the retail experience for our fans; having access to this level of data will enable us to do that. We knew we wanted more information to assess the impact of sale periods, support more suitable resourcing during matchdays and improve store layout – this technology will be hugely beneficial in helping us to do that.”
The technology itself is simple, but has the potential to offer “significant boosts to clubs’ bottom lines” says Peter Luff, president of Ipsos Retail Performance.
“It’s an Internet of Things device in the threshold, installed in the ceiling, looking down and counting everybody who walks in and out,” Luff explains. “In the case of the technology that Wolves has taken, it’s an infrared beam that has the ability to identify members of staff from customers, so they get a much tighter, more accurate measure of the number of customers walking into the shop.
“When a customer enters, they break a software count line, representing a count of one, which is then held in the camera, and we sweep that once an hour, every hour, and the data brought back into the cloud for us to use and analyse, so Wolves has near real-time reporting on how many people are walking into their location.”
That data is then matched against a feed taken from the point-of-sale systems in the store, comparing the volume and value of sales made in that period. “So let’s say 100 people walk in and there were 10 sales in that hour,” says Luff. “That gives you a conversion rate of 10 per cent, and 90 per cent therefore becomes your opportunity, because you didn’t sell to them. We’re trying to show clubs that there is an opportunity, and start thinking about why that 90 per cent didn’t make a purchase, and how they can engage them to do so.”
This cross-section of the data gives clubs a better idea of how things like store layouts, in-store advertising, and wider marketing campaigns are working than simply looking at the bottom line, and allows them to respond more quickly when something is or isn’t working.
“Let’s say a club has had a local radio campaign to say that they have a special deal on shirts if you buy during the midweek, which is usually a quiet period for clubs,” Luff says. “The technology really allows you to much more accurately measure the success of those kinds of focused retail campaigns. You can see whether more people are actually coming to the store during those hours to take advantage of the deal, and whether the conversion rate has risen during those hours, whether you’re actually selling more of those shirts.
“That can help you make decisions about running similar campaigns again; similarly, if it has no impact on traffic or conversion rate, then why do it again? But this gives you the basis to know whether your marketing is working.”
Much of the focus from Ipsos is on the “customer journey” through the store, something Luff says it honed working with sports merchandise retailer Kitbag at the Ryder Cup, of which it has been the official retail partner since 2014. By employing the technology in a temporary retail site, Ipsos is able to track customer data over the concentrated, three-day period of the competition, adjusting displays and queue-management systems on the fly. Ensuring the smooth flow of customers throughout a space, particularly at a busy stadium, is a core element of its offering.
“We are currently looking at store improvements over the summer to provide more floor space and product facings,” says Clark. “The data Ipsos have provided so far will be fundamental to the decision-making process in terms of how we take the store operations to the next level. Understanding our capacity and being able to pinpoint traffic by the hour each day will really enable us to optimise layout and flow in store.”
The technology also helps clubs allocate resources far more efficiently, both on matchdays and throughout the week. “Let’s say it’s a matchday, and you know your traffic is going to increase dramatically simply because there are people on-site for the game,” says Luff. “But how early in the process does the number of visitors increase? And how does that measure up against the number of sales? But once you know that, you can start to build your staff schedule, and start paying salaries based on knowing when the demand comes.
“If you don’t know, it’s a judgement call. We can look at the numbers and see that we fully open an hour and a half before kick off, but people are coming in two hours before and we don’t have the staff on hand to serve them all quickly enough. So you can bring on extra resources and maximise your ability to convert that extra half an hour, which pushes profits up. Or we could see that people are only coming in an hour before, and the club is paying staff to do nothing for an hour, which is also ultimately costing profit.”
For a club like Wolves, often playing twice a week in any one of four competitions, with games being staged at irregular times throughout the week, knowing how to respond to those changes to maximise the retail potential is “a key opportunity”, says Clark.
He adds that the technology has already encouraged Wolves to make some changes to their Megastore, “allowing us to measure the difference, for example, between a 3pm Saturday kick off versus a Sunday lunchtime or a midweek evening fixture” and understanding the different retail demands of those schedule changes. “In being able to accurately estimate our match day traffic, we can optimise store layout so that the shopping experience for fans is as comfortable as we can make it,” he says.
Luff says the “open goal” for clubs is improving performance on non-matchdays, when average conversion rates drop for a variety of reasons – such as staff focusing on stock taking or other tasks instead of making sales. “The important thing is raising that conversion rate, because bar the products, everything is profit,” he explains. “You’re already paying for the staff, you already have the store on-site and open. It’s an open goal of an area of improvement to grow overall club revenues.”