WiFi Analytics, Presence Analytics, and Retail Analytics: a Comprehensive Guide

There are so many different terms related to this new technology that it can be challenging to keep up with what they all mean in the field of visitor analysis and location analytics.

It’s even more confusing when every company says that their solution is the right pick for your organization.

We’ll go through the terms you’ve probably heard, attempts to define them, and explains when a particular solution might be the right approach.

WiFi Analytics:  Technology that enables you to use the information available through the wireless network to make better decisions about a physical space.  WiFi analytics encompasses tracking things like devices actually on the WiFi, devices that are detected near the WiFi using AP probes, and sometimes, information about other WiFi access points or WiFi channel strength.  Often these solutions have the benefit of tracking visitors through a unique identifier per device.  Having a unique identifier is essential when not just tracking the number of people in a space, but the frequency with how often people return to a space.

Presence Analytics:  Often means using WiFi AP probes to detect which devices are near a WiFi hotspot, whether they connect to the WiFi or not. This allows WiFi analytics companies to detect not just devices on the network, but also foot traffic estimates by counting unique smartphone WiFi signals.

Retail Analytics:  Business intelligence used in a retail storefront.  Retail analytics can include point of sale information, rewards programs statistics, people counters, etc.  However, in regards to WiFi analytics, this often also means AP Probes used to detect foot traffic.

Social WiFi:  Technology that asks visitors to login to free WiFi using their social media accounts.  By doing this in combination with other WiFi analytics information, it can provide an accurate description of both visitor usage patterns and demographic information.

Location Analytics:  Making smarter decisions based on information about a physical space.  This one can be confusing because technically detecting shoppers’ movement patterns within a store is location analytics, but knowing traffic patterns in a city is also location analytics. It’s a much broader topic and includes everything from car counters to people counters, etc.

Most WiFi analytics solutions fit the broader topic of location analytics, but most location analytics solutions do not fit into the WiFi analytics category as they use other technology.

Beacons:  Small hardware devices based on Bluetooth low energy technology that beam their location to apps listening for them.  BLE beacons are about the size of a quarter and can be placed anywhere within a physical building. Then, an app can determine what to do with this information based on these physical beacons. If you’d like for an app to pop up a message when you get close to a specific item, then you can program the app to do that. These are often most useful at conferences and events when it is likely that a high percentage of end users will be staying for a while and will install an app specific to the event.  These are also helpful if you’re physical space has an app that is often or always used by your customers.

Beam Counters / Turnstyle Counters / Pressure Counters / Infrared Counters: A hardware device that accurately counts the number of people that go into or out of a physical space.  These technologies often have higher accuracy than WiFi AP probes when it comes to fast-moving objects, devices that have WiFi disabled, or people that leave an area faster than a few minutes.  However, they primarily lack a unique identifier per visitor in a space, which makes it challenging to quantify new vs. return visitors, per visitor dwell time, etc.  Many organizations consider a combination of people counters to get accurate foot-traffic counts, plus WiFi analytics and WiFi AP probes to track dwell time, visitor patterns, and new vs. return visitation rates.