Business & Technology

Using Location Analytics to Improve Your Business

By Chris Hinsz | October 18, 2018

Location analytics solutions have been around for a while. But despite the valuable data they can provide, they are still primarily perceived as a tool for big box retail environments, such as malls, grocery stores, and department stores. In such environments, location analytics are commonly used to track consumers while they shop to help retailers do things like identify natural customer movement patterns, address congestion, identify places within a shopping environment that are less frequently visited, or place specific merchandise in high traffic areas.

But the reality is that any number of verticals can realize benefits from leveraging the sort of information that a presence analytics solution provides. Knowing where people are, where they’ve been, and how they’re moving around a location can be of key importance to a wide variety of vertical markets, including hospitality industries, transportation hubs, public venues, theme parks, and even large healthcare facilities. In fact, any business that needs to manage large numbers of people or evaluate the effectiveness of the placement of resources or services can benefit from location-based analytics.

Location data provides more intelligence than just x,y

A locationing system can provide degrees of information, each of which provide value. The simplest level is presence. At its most basic level, this information is highly binary in nature; either the person entered an establishment or didn’t. The second level of location intelligence is area-based. People may be within an establishment, but you may want to also know how many of them actually travel to a specific sub-location within the site. And finally, it can provide an actual x,y location that details where a person or device is specifically located.

Another critical piece of data that can be correlated to location is time. The addition of time expands presence, area, and location data to generate a whole new set of information. Presence by time can help an organization understand what times of day are the most popular for guests to visit an establishment. Within that location, looking at area data over time not only helps organizations determine the popularity of different destinations, but also provides transition data as people move from area to area. This allows for the correlation of visits to area A to follow-on visits to area B, for example. Location over time also allows for a walking path to be charted through a site. Even two people visiting the same four areas in the same order may look very different when one of those individuals stops to look at everything in an area while another person moves with purpose from A to C while only quickly passing through B.

The function of time can take on additional meaning when the same information is compared and contrasted across days, weeks, months, or years. This level of comparison opens up new ways to look at location data. Fortinet’s cloud-based FortiPresence solution makes all this possible by providing such data points as real-time location trends, total visitors, time spent at a location, comparison across areas or sites, and heat maps with animated flows.

Getting the most from a location analytics solution

It is obvious why retail was quick to adopt and use location solutions. Understanding and improving on the experience of shoppers on their property has high value. Guiding shoppers to specific goods or shopping areas can significantly improve sales. Customers with a positive experience tend to return, and in a highly competitive market that’s a good result. However, generating positive experiences for people is not only of interest to retailers. This is something that many other industries strive for, and while some (like an airport) may not necessarily feel a need to ‘generate repeat business’, museums, theme parks, and hospitality venues certainly do. And airports still have an interest in ensuring that passengers can quickly and easily navigate the airport, as well as access food, restrooms, and shopping along the way to enhance their experience.

Taking a closer look at how retail uses location information can help other organizations imagine how they can also use that intelligence. For example:

·       How people walk around a location has value. Do they go directly to select areas or do they wander around the whole place? Tying that behavior to a particular device address over time can help retailers provide customized information or incentives for individual patrons based on their behavior.

·       Likewise, popular walking paths based upon layout (whether intentional or not) can show up in aggregated location data over time. This can be used to either improve flow or induce greater browsing by cutting off an ‘easy path’ through a store.

·       Area statistics also have value, showing what departments generated the most visits, as well as which departments seem to have synergistic relationships with each other. Stores can use this information to improve the location of signage as well as to ensure that people can still find what they need even after a layout change.

Each of these examples has simple analogs outside of the context of retail. An airport (or other transit hub) would certainly like to know how people navigate their physical space, how long they spend waiting, and where they tend to do their waiting. Are there ‘dead’ areas that people are not frequenting that could be repurposed or redesigned to better effect?

Here are some ways non-traditional use cases can leverage location services:

Hospitals

·       Monitor patient movement

·       Track tagged high-value equipment

·       Monitor visitor movements to improve signage/navigation

·       Track staff/security personnel movement

·       Provide information for wayfinding applications

Hotels

·       Welcome guests back to the hotel each evening

·       Push content (restaurant/bar deals) based on presence

·       Track foot traffic to various areas to improve use and flow

Theme Parks

·       Determine popular areas in real time to distribute mobile sales carts

·       Direct customers to underutilized services

·       Determine less popular areas to raise visibility

·       Collect contact info including date of visit for marketing campaigns

Airport

·       Which stores and services are the most popular?

·       How long do people spend in the airport?

·       What are the movement patterns of people through the terminals?

·       Enable ‘find my gate’ applications

We have already seen a theme park use this data to understand how guests move around their property and then provide targeted advertisements to encourage patrons to explore areas that are being under-visited. Similarly, if a museum adds a new exhibit, location data can be used to move patrons toward that exhibit, determine whether they actually visit that area, and if so, whether or not they spend time there.

Going beyond location

Another valuable opportunity that an effective analytics tool can provide is a way to interact with visitors to a property. Of course, people feel differently about the use of Captive Portals, and their use may potentially requiring social login, so this debate may be better served by its own article at a later date. But even a simple landing page gives organizations an opportunity to interact with patrons, guests, or customers. Pushed surveys, coupons, or even a small ad for something going on at the site – especially when customized to someone’s observed patterns of behavior – can be valuable. Tying the results of such efforts to the data a locational analytics solution provides can add additional layers of information to analyze and capitalize on. For example, if new information is put on the portal page, does it cause a difference in behavior? Do specific sorts of incentives change desired behaviors? And if so, how much?

Conclusion

Deploying a system like this may seem complex. But the reality is, all of this can be implemented within the context of simply deploying Wi-Fi at the site. Given that most locations expect to have Wi-Fi (whether open to visitor access or not), the infrastructure is likely already there just waiting to be put to use to gain additional insights. Solutions such as Fortinet’s FortiPresence, built directly into all of Fortinet’s wireless management solutions – including FortiGate, FortiCloud, and FortiWLM – provide location analytics information in an easy-to-use and deploy web-based solution for easy data collection and analysis. And because they are fully interoperable across any number of sites, it can be easily extended to cover the entire enterprise footprint.

So what can location analytics do for you? It’s hard to know for sure unless you give it a try and see what insights it can provide. At Fortinet we try to make the process of understanding Location Analytics easy by offering a free tier of our FortiPresence analytics platform that is usable with all of our Secure Wireless Access architectures. You can create your own free account today here. Sometimes the most powerful way of convincing yourself is to start using something and see what happens.