Fewer consumers made the transition from browsers to shoppers last month, according to metrics released today by San Francisco-based Euclid, a company that specializes in in-store retail analytics.
The firm's U.S. Retail Benchmarks for September, based on data from 20 million domestic shopping sessions nationwide, shows walk-by conversion and in-store engagement was slipped from August -- a sign that consumers pulled back and spent less after the completed their back-to-school spending.
The data show that there were more people walking by than entering stores, and "illustrate a cautious outlook for specialty retailers' comp store and total store sales during the month," the company stated in a recent update.
Euclid tracks information from traffic counting sensors in more than 600 shopping centers, malls and street locations around the United States.
The data show number of shoppers who enter a store as a percentage of the total walk-by foot traffic decreased to 14.4 percent from 16.3 percent in August -- the lowest rate since April.
In addition, the percentage of shoppers who entered a store but left within five minutes -- the "bounce rate" -- climbed to 15.6 percent, up from 13.7 percent year-over-year but lower than the recent high of 17 percent in July. Consumers spent an average of slightly more than 22 minutes in the store, a decline of 5 percent year-over-year and 5.7 percent from August.
So does the data point to a weak holiday shopping season? Perhaps, even though consumers remain very engaged.
Scott Frymoyer, head of Euclid's insights team, told me today:
We're waiting to see the data from October to make predictions on the holiday season because we want to fully understand consumer sentiment going into November, especially given the uncertainty around the government shutdown. The ways that we've seen retailers capitalize on and increase customer engagement are by improving access to sales associates and enhancing the look and feel of the store. Readily available staff can answer questions and make recommendations, and better-displayed products encourage shoppers to increase the units and value of their purchases."
Euclid reports that active repeat customers, consumers who return to the same retail store more than once in 30 days, accounted for 25.3 percent of total visits measured, up 140 basis points from the previous month -- a positive sign of customer loyalty.
But CBRE Research, a real estate consulting firm, reported this week that it expects the 2013 holiday shopping season to be slightly weaker than last year.
While malls are not at risk of a major impact from loss of sales, consumers are buying more discretionary items online -- things like clothing, books and small electronics, items which typically generate strong sales during the holiday shopping season.
Still, consumers continue to frequent malls -- and sales in most retail categories have at least reached the dollar-per-square-foot figures they recorded in mid-2007, the company found. CBRE cited a chain-weighted sales-per-square-foot metric from The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), which shows booksellers are the only retailers whose sales have seen a downward trend since 2007 and that apparel sales remain weak. However, data shows sales in the remaining segments are expanding beyond pre-recession levels.
The bright spot in the combined research seems to be the healthy number of repeat customers. How can smart retailers capitalize on analytics to drive more and greater spending from these loyal customers? Should personalized promotions be part of the marketing program?