There’s More to WiFi Analytics than Just Heat Maps

- 1st Jun 2017

The phrase ‘post truth’ is as relevant to marketing as it is to politics. There have been cases where marketers tend to misrepresent or exaggerate facts just to get their foot in the door. While some may consider it to be a characteristic of excellent salesmanship, we lean towards a different brand of sales and marketing – the kind that has its basis in data, research and truths.

WiFi Analytics and Heatmaps

We’ve come across many customers who’ve asked us if our WiFi analytics platform could generate heatmaps –  Of course, data in our backend systems can easily do so. But, what’s puzzling is how customers emphasize the need for heat maps when it’s not the most powerful capability of a location analytics platform.

What are Heat Maps

Typically, heatmaps provide a visual summary of where visitors are at a particular location. The colors that you see on a heatmap correspond to foot traffic in a retail store. For example, the red areas could represent the zones with most foot traffic, the blue areas could be the ones that receive less footfall and the green areas could be the ones which were barely visited.

So what does that tell you? At best, you have a vague impression of where your users are.

In other words, deploying a location analytics platform to generate heat maps is like buying a $2,000 computer and then using it only to play Tetris.

Why Heat Maps Are Not So ‘Hot’ Anymore

Heat maps don’t even require location technology; they can be generated equally well by plugging a piece of software into your CCTV system. They were, however, a large part of what location analytic tools had to offer in the early days of the technology, before the supporting analytics software became what it is today.

As far as business intelligence goes, bad (or misleading) information is worse than no information, and heat maps can be very misleading. Since they provide only a vague idea of where customers spend their time, the area around a promotional display for a new and exciting product will look very similar to a restroom entrance on a heat map.

What most business managers don’t understand is that the level of correlation between customer behaviour and the information a heat map provides is surprisingly low. 10 people walking straight past a section of your store is worth far less to you than the one person who spends a minute or two examining the products offered there, yet they will look exactly the same on a heat map. While this may be a useful starting point, interpreting the data correctly requires direct observation – enough of which obviates the need for heat maps, anyway.

Why Heat Maps are Overestimated

The main reason business buyers are still under the impression that heatmaps are the best capability of an intelligent location analytics platform is because they don’t know what other features there are. Marketers are peddling limited capability solutions without informing their customers the full range of applications of a location analytics platform.

Location intelligence is a fairly new technology and it’s possible that not every business buyer is aware of its complete range of capabilities. The onus rests on marketers to apprise their clients of such information and help them make wiser and better business decisions.

WiFi Analytics: Capabilities Beyond Heat Maps

A robust WiFi Analytics platform has other ways to help you figure out where your customers are and what they’re up to, with even greater accuracy.

The major disadvantage of simplistic heat maps is that they cannot be easily combined with other sources of information, which is what Big Data is all about. Instead of merely aggregating data, a great LBS solution can identify and keep track of individual customers.

If you want to gain an accurate appreciation of customer behaviour, it is not enough to know that “someone was over there” – you have to link each instance to a particular pair of feet. Beyond presence, organizing data by individual customer views increases the utility of the information tenfold.

Get Access to Behavioral Insights

With WiFi analytics, accurately track behavioral insights throughout the customer journey – from a potential customer being present outside your business premises to the moment he hands over his credit card. For instance, the moment a visitor connects to your WiFi network, you can begin to track the following:

  • Footfall – the number of visitors and number of passerbys can be measured in real time.
  • The route a visitor follows in the venue – pinpoint customer movement down to a few metres so that relevant offers and notifications can be pushed to a customer in real time.
  • The dwell time – depending on how long a customer pauses at a particular section, a relevant engagement can be initiated. We’ve identified that if a customer is engaged for more than 8 minutes in store, their propensity to buy increases by 60%, regardless of how many people came in.
  • Visit frequency – Is it a first time visitor or a returning customer? How often does he visit – two times in a month or more?
  • Time of visit – what time does a visitor usually walk in? Does he visit on weekdays or weekends? Is it during mid-mornings or late evenings? During lunch hours or during dinner time?

All these data can be analysed and used to unlock rich behavioral insights, which can be further used to devise appropriate engagement strategies. For example – to a mall owner, it would be much more useful to know that a particular customer visits the food court in his mall every weekend between 1PM and 3PM than simply knowing that a certain percentage of people visit the food court.

Think Beyond Heat Maps. Think Actionable Information

Heat maps look pretty and are useful for purposes such as identifying bottlenecks or corners of a store where customers rarely enter, but they are really the lowest rung on the location analytics ladder.

Hopefully, when you are exploring the LBS market, you’ll now be in a better position to separate facts from marketing gimmicks.

Navigating the LBS space can be overwhelming. So, if you want to be more informed about what to look for in your LBS solution, get free access to our Slideshare presentation.


Our SaaS tool Proximity MX helps businesses gain actionable insights on customer behavior at location using existing WiFi infrastructure. Request for a free demo by clicking the below button to learn more about Proximity MX.