Digital and Physical Analytics Today and Tomorrow

Website Analytics has revolutionized online marketing. It’s now an indispensable tool for any business that has an online presence. Track where your customers are coming from, how long they stay, and what they buy. Send ads based on what products they linger on or return to, and suggest products that they will find interesting based on their past behavior.  All of these are great features that web analytics provide, but most businesses are much more than a website.

Can the power of website analytics be applied to physical spaces?

With all of this information available to website owners, owners of physical locations have felt somewhat envious by the lack of intelligence they can receive about in-store visitors.  By understanding how impactful website analytics has been to their business success, forward-thinking companies are starting to use location analytics in their physical spaces to try to replicate their online success. Leveraging wifi hardware and customer smartphones has enabled some companies to peel back layers of customer behavior like dwell time, repeat visits, and traffic flow in their physical stores similar to their websites.

Just how powerful can location analytics be?

We break down some current similarities and differences between the digital and physical worlds.

Daily visitors

At the most basic level, business owners want to know how many people are stopping by each day. On the website, this is tracked as sessions, and on the physical front, it’s the WiFi guest or WiFi passerby total. Both are monitored in various analytics software.


website total visitors


physical total visitors

Time of day traffic

Heat maps are great at visualizing density by time. Notice peak times at a glance and prioritize times that are busiest.


website usage per hour per day


wifi devices used per hour per day

Current active users

Analytics software is useful for taking a snapshot of traffic at a point in time. On the web, you can view exactly how many visitors you have and what page they are currently on. With location analytics, you can see where people are in your space based on beacons, access points or cameras.


website active users


in store camera photo

physical access point beacons

Traffic flow

Optimization is the primary reason for analytics monitoring. Finding obstructions in your visitors’ path is a great way to create value for your business. People navigate through a physical space just as intuitively as they do a website; using visual keys and shared experiences to lead them to their goal. If your business is sending mixed signals, you miss out on value.  Digital web analytics is still many years ahead of the physical world when it comes to measuring distinct human behavior with data. Whether using beacons, WiFi access points, or cameras it’s currently difficult in the physical world to be as granular as tracking a single person on a single page on a website over time, but this should improve in the future.


website traffic flow


wifi foot traffic heatmap  in store camera photo

Devices used

Are your customers Apple fans, Android, or Windows desktop users?  Answering these questions could determine where your sign-age, training, or product development should be focused.  Customer device preferences are easily seen on a website and are starting to be possible to be tracked at physical locations as well.


website os detection


physical manufacturer detection

Return rate

Given the high costs of customer acquisition, repeat customers are the lifeblood of most companies.  Return visitations to your website or your physical store can both be tracked.


website return rate


in store return rate


Demographic information is crucial to marketing campaigns. Validating your audience is easy online, with Social Media and Web Analytics tools giving you detailed demographic information about your visitors. So what about physical analytics? There are solutions using Guest WiFi and captive portal logins. By requiring social media to log in to a captive WiFi portal you can collect demographic data on visitors who use free WiFi.  Machine Learning applied to still images and video is also helpful in determining age and gender of in-store visitors.


web analytics demographics chart


guest wifi demographics chartfaces with machine learning demographics


One of the most important things to remember is that analytics grow exponentially more powerful with each additional source of data.  Both physical and digital analytics dashboards have similar attributes that can be easily compared, or even interchanged.

As analytics of physical spaces begins to mirror analytics of websites, a likely synergy between a visitors website user experience and in-store user experience should start to develop and deliver even more value to customers.

These are still the early days of location analytics.  With any new technology, there will be significant advantages and likely areas where it falls short.  All of these examples only scratch the surface of location analytics real potential based on a comparison technology that people already know in web analytics.  Whatever comes of this new technology, the lines are blurring between digital and physical business, as customers and businesses owners weave their experiences from smartphones into shopping malls.

If you are interested in collecting analytics on your business, schedule a demo today!

Disclaimer:  All screenshots are the property of their respective owners, Google and Microsoft, copyright, trademarked, or otherwise protected.  Who’s On My WiFi has no legal relationship with the owners.  The use of the owner’s screenshots does not represent any legal association, venture or partnership with Who’s On My WiFi. The use of the screenshots does not represent the owner’s sponsorship or endorsement of Who’s On My WiFi or any product or service provided by Who’s On My WiFi.  All screenshots are shown for comparative purposes only to help explain the new technology being described.