In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
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As sophisticated as Virgin’s use of traffic and sales data is, Fort notes that Virgin is satisfied for now with what is a basic system compared to other store traffic-monitoring systems on the market. The ShopperTrak cameras produce shadow images of store traffic entering and leaving stores without identifying personal characteristics that might help segment consumers by gender, age or other factors.
Other systems from vendors like Brickstream and VideoMining go further in monitoring activity of visitors throughout a store, Baird says. Brickstream and IntelliVid, a unit of Tyco International, have designed technology that can tell retailers how long in-store visitors spend in front of particular promotional displays. And VideoMining’s system can recognize facial features and visitor actions to report on consumers’ emotional responses to product offers.
While some retailers are still learning how to deploy these systems, experts say retailers can get additional value from them in the near term by combining them with loss-prevention tools that can often use the same monitoring devices to match missing items with store traffic and sales reports, and by combining them with business intelligence systems. Although vendors typically provide their own built-in analytical tools, retailers can also integrate store-monitoring systems with business intelligence systems that bring in data from multiple store operations like inventory and labor management.
Also vital, experts say, is taking advantage of these web-based systems to access data from anywhere in a retail enterprise. At Virgin Mega Stores, the Internet portal that provides access to store traffic and sales data will be used to support a planned effort to manage the entire chain as well as individual stores, for instance by comparing key metrics across stores.
“We started with stores to get the immediate benefit,” Fort says. “Now we’re shifting our focus to the home office, for a deeper analysis of all stores.”