Entries by Kevin Ford

Data Is The New Oil – Improving Asset Management Decision-Making

Technology is rapidly evolving and customer experience has never been more important. How can shopping centres stay ahead of the curve in today’s changing landscape? Prepared by Cohera-Tech Director Kevin Ford, the article was first published as a special feature in Shopping Centre New's 'Little Guns 2021' edition.

As shopping centres worldwide become ever more diverse, the complexity of management decision-making continues to increase. Brand or tenant changes are a day-to-day business. However, more strategic tenant mix adjustments that require capital investment need another level of justification and sign off. Essential supporting information about the performance of an asset includes customer footfall, tenant transactional data, customer behaviour and heat maps.

The industry is now moving towards the need for additional information such as catchment area demographics, travel and dwell time, weather, market capacity, psychographics, retail gravity models and everything in between.

Leading shopping centre managers have always been good at collecting data and understanding their tenants and customers; however, it often depends on the quality and experience of the local team. As the market has shifted, mainly due to the global pandemic, many shopping centre owners internationally are now offering turnover only rents, in order to enter into a more collaborative approach with the tenants. This has improved the relationship between landlord and tenant and caused a boom in demand for effective tenant revenue models. These tenant revenue systems capture critical transactional data within a secure data collation system.

 The Vemco Suite is exclusively supplied and supported in Australia and NZ by Cohera-Tech 

The need to understand the customer better allows shopping centre management to communicate with shoppers more effectively. This takes us over the horizon, from the old scattergun approach to marketing.

Once we understand customer behaviour, shopping patterns and brand loyalty, we can communicate more efficiently and effectively..

The fear of data and privacy laws have seen centre owners resistant to fully committing capital to invasive consumer database systems. However, the global pandemic has seen a ten-year evolutionary leap in online versus physical retail sales, with 2030 arriving in 2020. In the best Darwinian principles, retailers and shopping centre owners have been forced to evolve or die. Equally, tech companies have developed cutting-edge suites that combine all legacy industry-standard data feeds and many new ones within one integrated system with access via a single interface or Application Programming Interface (API).

The latest analytics systems for shopping centres can accept data from an ever-increasing range of smart sensors, significantly enhancing the understanding of customer behaviour. The types of sensors employed can range from parking bay sensors that guide customers on their arrival at the centre; people counting sensors based on 3D or LIDAR technology that can deliver biometric data; as well as count and track customers on their journey through the shopping centre without the privacy implications and concerns of more invasive technologies such as WiFi tracking; and a host of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to track the performance of the building itself in real-time. Leading systems can also integrate and capture individual tenant-specific information such as point of sale data. This integration means landlords, centre managers and retailers no longer need to invest in developing ‘in-house’ systems; they can be easily bought off the shelf.

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Vemcount overview

These tried and tested systems are already being used in hundreds of malls across Europe and North America.

As an industry, Shopping Centres are waking up to the fact that shared data is powerful data. It is easy to see how we get to the thought that ‘data is the new oil’ as data can improve how we make intelligent asset decisions and communicate with our customers.

Social media giant Meta, (owner of Facebook), has algorithms that only supply content users want to see, which keeps them interested and engaged longer. If we consider that a mall is a smartphone and tenants are apps, then we are moving towards a world that Gen Z exists within. The personalised customer journey and experience is only possible if we can profile customers via their shopping patterns, brand loyalty and journey characteristics.

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Vemtenant uses a wide range of metrics, including footfall and sales data, to help property managers make more informed decisions  

If the industry is going to thrive in a post-pandemic world, doubling down on digital and embracing the ‘data is the new oil’ mentality will be the way forward. Darwin will again be correct, and it will not be the biggest or strongest that will survive; it will be those that are able and willing to adapt and evolve the quickest.

At Cohera-Tech, our goal is to help our partners be at the forefront of their industry by delivering them the most innovative and powerful data analytics tools available.

The latest of these is the Vemco Suite from Vemco Group, a comprehensive range of cloud-hosted software modules that focus on specific solutions for Shopping Centres and includes Vempark, Vemcount, Vemtrack, Vemtenant, Vemiot and Vemfusion. The Vemco Suite is exclusively supplied and supported in Australia and New Zealand by Cohera-Tech.

Acknowledgements – Gary Burrows – Fit For Commerce, Malls and Meeting Places. 

Original published Shopping Centre News Article

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Auckland University of Technology – People Counting Gold

In October Corrie Cook, Director of Space Planning and Timetabling and Blair Daly, Associate Director of Space Planning and Timetabling, presented an on-line case study, to the Tertiary Education Management Online 2021 Conference, covering their experience of identifying and resolving the problem of efficient usage of the 300 teaching spaces in multiple venues at their University.  Click here to watch the presentation.

THE PROJECT BRIEF

The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Facilities Team identified the need to effectively manage and optimise the range of university facilities across all locations and campuses. To achieve this, they needed a practical real time system to monitor changes in student attendance and analytics that would facilitate results comparisons against current and historical data.

Cohera-Tech’s experience in this field is extensive, with similar installations and data analytics programs having been installed in many major universities in Australia, which made them a natural first choice for the program.

ABOUT AUT

AUT has been a university for 20 years , but a place of learning for 120 years. It is New Zealand’s second largest university in terms of student enrolment with approximately 29,000 students enrolled across five faculties and is ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide by Times Higher Education. The university has three campuses in Auckland and an additional two specialist locations - AUT Millennium, Warkworth Radio Astronomical Observatory.

Presentation Summary

In their presentation Corrie and Blair have covered the difficulties encountered with other faculty members and academics, holding different views and varied solutions and their commitment to the status quo.

Corrie and Blair detail the process they used to overcome objections to “people counting”, how they tested the concept and obtained budgets for the equipment and software system and expenditure justifications used in their proposals.

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AUT Nga Wai Hono Building, Auckland     Source: Jason Mann photography

They cover their experience in installing the sensors and the development of the reporting / analytics software for their particular data requirements. They also reveal why they chose the Cohera-Tech system rather than other options.

AUT Mana Hauora Building

AUT Mana Hauora Building, Auckland     Source: Jason Mann Photography

They address the benefits that have emerged from accurate people counting in terms of both, return on investment and on real cost / efficiency gains experience from the better management of the assets under their control. Summed up by the statement “We told you so!”

They summarise with a look to the future, through the installation of other people counting systems in other areas of the university and the likely gains, now that the system has proved effective and cost saving.
Watch a recording of the presentation by completing the form below. 

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Video Presentation

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Winston Hills Mall

People Counting Solution at Winston Hills Mall , NSW

Located in Sydney's Hills District, Winston Hills Mall has over 60 specialty shops and 24,000sm of retail floor space. Winston Hills Mall centre management approached Cohera-Tech for a cost effective and easy to use reporting solution to help measure mall performance by monitoring visitor traffic and centre occupancy.

We installed multiple overhead people counters at all entry/exit points throughout the centre using 4G connectivity to send count data to our cloud-hosted reporting system. This resulted in quick and low cost deployment, reducing the need for additional cabling throughout the mall.

Our cloud-based reporting system allows centre management to access and analyse data 24/7 from any internet connected device. The system features customisable dashboards and reports in both tabular and graphical formats, enabling centre staff to obtain a quick snapshot of mall performance indicators and generate key performance reports on the fly. Reports can also be downloaded in various formats at the touch of a button for further analysis or communication to stakeholders.

Nicole Galea, Marketing Manager at Winston Hills Mall explains the benefits of the Cohera-Tech system:

We are very pleased with our new people counting system from Cohera-Tech. This system enables us to monitor the mall occupancy level in real-time, identify popular times of day, and compare daily, weekly and monthly data. The interface is easy to use and the people counters themselves are discreet and the installation process was stress free. One of the most useful features we enjoy using is the traffic heat map - this graphically identifies the most popular mall entry points at various times of the day on the centre map. This helps us to provide detailed information to our tenants and allows us to effectively manage the day-to-day operations of the shopping centre.

At Cohera-Tech, we offer the most advanced, accurate and reliable people counting devices in the market with a typical count accuracy in excess of 99%. Combined with market leading real-time analytics and reporting software, our people counting solution provides shopping centre management and retailers with the necessary tools to effectively monitor centre performance.

Wyndham Aquapulse

Wyndham 'Aquapulse' Leisure Centre in Victoria

The Wyndham City Council is the Local Government Authority in the Werribee and surrounding areas, managing a large number of publicly owned assets and being responsible for their effectiveness and value to the community. 

The Wyndham City Council area covers 542 square kilometers on the western fringe of Melbourne, with Werribee and Hoppers Crossing the principle areas of population. 

Wyndham has the fastest population growth of local government areas Australia wide, with an additional 10,604 persons from 2013 to 2014. The total estimated population is 199,714.

Counting the numbers of people and visitors who make use of Council assets and analysing and reporting on these results is an important part of the job of the Council’s Executive Team. 

Of particular interest to the Council, is the number of people visiting fitness facilities like the “Aquapulse” Leisure Centre in Werribee.

Western Leisure Services who manage the “Aquapulse” facility were tasked with the installation of counting systems and the provision of reporting systems to provide Wyndham Council with ongoing information on the usage of the centre by residents.

Operations Manager of the Aquapulse Centre, Alek Olszewski identified the critical features required for their counting system as:

  • 1

    Counting Accuracy

  • 2

    Separate counts for adults and children

  • 3

    Maintaining venue population counts

  • 4

    Real-time counts being delivered to selected staff via their smart phones and tablets.

  • 5

    Automated venue capacity “alerts” for preset levels

Like many other progressive City and Shire Councils they found that the Cohera-Tech system provided the data and reporting information required. 

 Cohera-Tech, based in Brisbane, use high quality video sensors linked with cloud based reporting and analysis systems / software. 

These are linked to staff tablets and smart phones to provide realtime reporting on the number of people and visitors coming to the venue and the occupation levels, during the times the venue / pool are open. 

They also provide a report on the number of people in the venue at any point during the day, allowing staff to be rostered for peak times and safety considerations, like swimming pool capacity, to be addressed with automated “alert” messages to responsible staff.

mobile phones with charts

Sensors were installed at

  • The main entry to the centre

  • Pool hall entry

  • Members entry

  • Group entry (Special side entry for groups of school children into pool area)

Results

  • The Cohera-Tech counting system has proved to be an accurate and effective way of monitoring visitor numbers and of tracking them once in the facility.

  • This has greatly simplified the reports to the City Council, allowing them to see the level of usage of the Aquapulse Centre and its value as a resource for residents. The pool occupancy alerts have been set to send an initial warning to staff when they are within 150 of maximum capacity and a no additional swimmers alert when the pool is within 50 of maximum capacity. 

  • The delivery of the alerts to staff smart phones and tablets has proved most effective as the staff responsible are usually working around the centre.

  • Of particular interest has been the discrepancy between the accurate CoheraTech counts and the point of sale data. This has shown some visitors have avoided payment / registration of membership cards. Adjustment to access equipment has now eliminated this problem.

  • One of the major benefits of the Cohera-Tech system has been the capacity to schedule centre staff rosters to meet anticipated visitor numbers based on past data. This will improve as additional data is collected in coming years.

Other Cohera-Tech Leisure Installations

  • Glen Eira Aquatic and Leisure Centre

  • Nowra Aquatic Centre

  • Bomaberry Aquatic Centre

  • Bay and Basin Leisure Centre

  • Sussex Inlet Aquatic Park

  • Ulladulla Leisure Centre

  • Five Dock Leisure Centre

Customer Counting in Shopping Centres

The performance of any shopping centre is highly dependent on visitor traffic. Measuring the traffic is therefore an essential key performance indicator for shopping mall operators wanting to increase operational effectiveness and improve leasing strategies.

While most centres have been using some level of visitor counting, the analysis of the results has often been time consuming and accuracy sometimes doubtful.

In the past sensors have been of either the break-beam variety or thermal / heat sensing type, both of which have limitations and lack the sophistication and accuracy of the latest video based sensor systems.
Break-beam sensors can be easily blocked by displays can only count a limited flow of visitors and can often double-count loaded shopping trolleys as visitors.

Thermal sensors provide reasonably accurate thermal image counting but cannot recognise children / adult / group differences or report on them separately.

The value of shopping centre visitor counting is only as good as the reporting and analysis systems used, which convert the raw sensor counting data into useable reports that provide management information quickly and clearly.

In the past this involved the transfer of the data to excel spreadsheets and then to bar charts, graphs etc. Often this meant that data was typically ancient history by the time it was reviewed by senior managers.

LEADING EDGE VIDEO SENSORS
REAL TIME REPORTING TO SMARTPHONE OR TABLET

Progressive Shopping Centres, Retailers and even City Councils are now using people counting systems that use high quality video sensors linked with cloud based reporting and analysis systems. 

These provide real time count reporting direct to Manager’s smart phones, tablets and PC’s. 

Analysis systems and reports are generated automatically to provide daily, weekly, monthly results and historical comparisons. 

They can even link into a retailer’s point of sale system to provide average sales per store visit indicating the effectiveness of sale staff in converting store visits to customers.

ADULTS, CHILREN & GROUPS COUNTED SEPERATELY

Video based counters can be set up to give separate counts for adults and children as well as counting the number of couples and family groups if required.

Managers can literally have hands-on control and real time results and graphs shown on their smartphone or tablet, no matter where they are in Australia or the World.

COUNTING SENSORS - NOT SECURITY CAMERAS

It is important to note that the video counting sensors are not security cameras and do not record images, they simply use a sophisticated level of video based technology that tracks and counts peoples movement patterns and translates these into accurate counts and reports. It is not possible to count people using security cameras.

RETAILER LINK TO SHOPPING CENTRE DATA

Retailers based within the shopping centre are able to link into the centre’s counting system. With their own shop based counting sensors they are able to compare their customer traffic flows with those of the shopping centre to measure the pulling power of their advertising and window displays.

HOT-SPOT tracking is also available to enable centre managers to track visitor movement around the centre and isolate hot and cold activity spots for potential management action.

COHERA-TECH COUNTING SYSTEMS FOR SHOPPING CENTRES

Leading national people, visitor and member counting organisation Cohera-Tech based in Brisbane have a range of leading edge counting sensors from the most sophisticated 3D video units to specialist counting systems for counting cars and bicycles. 

Cohera-Tech also install and support the latest reporting software used in major shopping centres and international airports throughout Europe which can be integrated with shop / tenant systems for an unrivaled performance measuring system.

BENEFITS FOR SHOPPING CENTRE MANAGERS

  • Understand the captive & conversion rate i.e. what is the spend per visitor

  • Rank stores with each other based on visitors and sales data performance

  • Motivate stores, by sharing ranking and sales rapports with them

  • Improving sales performance at store level by receiving valuable reports based
    on key performance indicators

  • Analyse hot and cold spots in the centre based on customer flow

  • Measure occupancy of your centre in real time and its constituent floors/zones

  • Understand visitor traffic patterns across different time periods from a single or
    multiple centres

  • Determine which sections are most popular and which are mostly avoided

  • Understand how major anchor stores impact shopper traffic

  • Optimise staffing, maintenance and security based on traffic predictions

Smart Aquatic and Leisure Centre

The Glen Eire Sports and Aquatic Centre in Bentleigh East is one of many similar Centres which use the Cohera-Tech counting and real time reporting system to manage the usage of their multiple venues.

Centre visitor numbers are tracked from initial entry at the main entrance and the external gate for groups, through to individual destination venues like the pool, health club, stadium etc. This allows the management team to track the usage of the different facilities by numbers, times of day, weekdays, weekends, holiday periods etc. Eight accurate sensors are deployed throughout the centre providing counts and reports to a guaranteed minimum of 98% accuracy.

Real time reporting from cloud based servers allows venue managers and staff to access visitor numbers and reports on smart phones, tablets and PC’s. An alert system is also active to limit venue numbers, by restricting entry, particularly in the pool area.

Full historical data reports and analytics, including all venue counts is sent to the Centre Manager and selected City Council executives, allowing them to measure the success of the Sports and Aquatic Centre on the basis of actual usage by residents.

SEPARATE COUNTING CHILDREN & ADULTS

The Cohera-Tech system provides separate counts for children and adults and incorporates these into the reports generated as well as comparative data from previous months and years.