6 Smart Ways Retailers Can Use Heat Maps to Drive Conversions

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What do customer movements inside stores have to do with conversions? Quite a lot, it turns out. Slight changes in routing can increase the traffic around promotional displays and help avoid bottlenecks, but retailers are limited in the data they can collect from their salespeople on the ground. Instead, some of the smartest retailers are now installing beacons, WiFi, and other hyperlocal technologies as a way to generate heat maps that track customer flows.

“It is wasn’t possible to view a store as a website and the departments as individual web pages before, but with heat mapping it now is,” explains Nick Stein of indoo.rs, a mobile SDK that enables retailers to get real-time position and navigation updates. “Each time a person changes from one department to the next, it’s like a navigation to the next page. By treating a physical store like a website, it’s possible to use basic website analytics to help understand the data.”

Here are six of the smartest ways retailers are using heat maps to drive in-store conversions right now, from top executives in the field.

1. Measuring interest in promotional displays “Heat maps help increase in-store conversions by providing fact-based insights that answer key questions and enable retailers to improve store marketing, merchandising and operations, as well as the shopper experience. Retailers can answer questions like: Are we using the best window and end cap displays? Are more customers visiting a certain location or department because of a certain ad? Knowing how long each customer visits a store, and how much time is spent in one area, conveys interest in the products within a department; the areas that see the most dwell tend to see the highest conversion.” (Nader Fathi, Kiana Analytics)

2. Pinpointing dead zones “Heat and kinetic maps can show the engagement levels within an area or even within a fixture. High activity shows engagement by the shopper, whereas low activity shows minor or no engagement. Retailers can then take a deeper dive into why there is minimal activity and create ‘actionable solutions.’ Solutions can be changes to signage, product descriptions or use depictions, merchandising assortment or displays. The key is to understand which areas or fixtures are traffic drivers and which ones are engagement drivers.” (Shelley E. Kohan, RetailNext)

3. Suggesting products based on in-store paths “Currently heat maps show density, which can be displayed interactively using filters, but this can be extended. For example, a person in a supermarket going from the flour section to the egg to the baking powder section, and eventually to the chocolate section — based on that path, assumptions could be made that the customer is baking a cake. A [retailer’s] app would then be able to suggest a recipe or a discount on something to top the cake.” (Nick Stein, indoo.rs)

4. Maximizing resources “Retailers can use heat maps to realize shopper activities and maximize resources. An example would be sending team members to help congregated customers or opening a new register in order to eliminate lines. Heat maps help operators recognize areas that need additional marketing, as well.” (Chetan Ghai, ShopperTrak)

5. Grouping customer spending by location “Geographic heat maps can quickly identify clusters and concentrations. For example, are your most loyal high-spending customers the ones closest to the store? Or, are there other underlying geographic factors like a suburban setting or ease of access to your store that can be attributed to increased revenue from a particular customer segment? Maps can display customer spending by segments and zip code. Clear patterns and groupings appear that cannot be picked up by looking at singular rows in tables or charts.” (Helen Thompson, Esri)

6. Running A/B tests “Heat and kinetic maps can be used for A/B testing or store comparisons. In testing, merchandising or fixtures, and even store layouts, can be measured for baseline data. The test sites implement changes that can be quickly viewed with the maps. The ability to take quick reads and fast actions are one of the best benefits to heat maps. The ability to digest the information of heat and kinetic maps is generally quick, as is the ability to take action as compared to streaming through mounds of other types of data. Of course, deeper dives and the best testing insights come from both understanding integrated data and its coupling with visualization tools.” (Shelley E. Kohan, RetailNext)

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.