People tracking: the common field between shopper behaviour research & visitor experience

The creative industries have been at the head of some interesting technologies for new research around people tracking and understanding visitors and the visitor experience. This article takes a quick look at some of the coolest recent innovations – how they are being used by the cultural sector.

People tracking technology

People tracking: refers to technologies that capture the time, location, position, or actions of people or objects in motion to create data (often used to understand the visitor or shopper experience)

This isn’t just relevant for museums or cultural institutions – it is relevant for the entire field of behavioural research. From a research perspective, there are strong synergies between visitor research, and  shopper behaviour.  Understanding how someone moves around a museum gallery is not so different from understanding their shopper experience to and in a store.

1. Radio frequency ring for customised experiences (Core RFID)

What it is: A ring that includes radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to provide visitors with an interactive experience during their exposition, designed by Core RFID Ltd

How it works: Visitors to the exhibition sign in and register their core personal details (age and name) and email address, in exchange for this very cool ring to use in combination with the exhibits. They can point the ring at reader points to trigger the presentation of customised material based on their age. The ring enables the museum to track the visitor path and visitor sequences, revealing important research by age group.

Where to see it: Institute for Sound & Vision, Hilversum, The Netherlands

Customised RFID tag embedded in a ring for the museum's visitors.Photo Credit: Core RFID Ltd


2. Bluetooth tracking to map visitor traffic at the Louvre (MIT)

What it is: A bluetooth tracking, with bluetooth sensors positioned in key areas within the Louvre galleries. The sensors track the visitors as they move around the museum, recording the path they take, how long they spend in front of each artwork, and the total museum journey.

How it works: The Bluetooth sensors are a non-evasive way to measure visitor traffic, by picking up the mobile bluetooth signals. In this example of the Louvre,  the study ran over 24 days, recording more than 24 thousand unique devices (removing and correcting for museum staff).

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 09.56.33

Photo credit: MIT Art Traffic  The blue points refer to the sensors, the yellow points show an animation of the visitors inside the museum.

Some surprising findings: “visiting style of short-stay (less than 1:30 min) and long-stay (more than 6 hours) visitors are not significantly different” MIT Art Traffic 

3. Collecting & saving experience with the Cooper Hewitt Pen

What it is: Customising and co-creation in the museum visit, thanks to a special Pen to let you learn, play, design and collect, at the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

How it works: I haven’t had the pleasure yet to test this one, but here is how it works according to the museum home-page. With the pen, you can draw on interactive tables, interact with the exhibits, and collect and save your creations. You leave the Pen behind at the museum but can later download all of your collections.

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 10.30.49Photo credit: Cooper Hewitt Museum

4. Virtual Museums – exploring the museum collection.

What it is: A virtual reality tour of some of the world’s most visited museums.

Sure, ecommerce has allowed people to shop and visitor stores and products virtually for decades already. But museums are taking this to a whole new level with the virtual reality tours of their collections in-situ. The retail sector is keen to follow, with Walmart and Amazon also investing heavily in Virtual reality shopper solutions.

Unlike an ecommerce channel or digital collection page, you don’t just tour the gallery or museum collection based on its pieces, in isolation. Instead you can literally “Google map transport yourself” into the Louvre, the  Guggenheim, British Museum, or the Modern Art Museum in Seoul thanks to the new platforms by Google Arts & Culture.

How it works: You simply click on the familiar Google location symbol and you find yourself in an immersive, 360 panorama virtual reality tour of the museum.

It’s like Google Maps street-view, but works inside the galleries and hallways of some of the world’s most famous museums. See the screenshot below from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. 

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 10.49.26.png


Or, just Google “Near Me”

OK, so this one is not designed for museums per se, but its worth a quick reflection in this article.

What it is: Every time you Google “restaurant”, “museum”, shop “near me” on Google you are also opting in to a form of real-time visitor or potential visitor tracking.

How it works: Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking is build-in the Apple and Android operating platforms, and works with the Google or third party site. The tarcking then enables data to confirm what is searched for, and whether the search results ina  visit to the store or site. According to Think with Google stats, the queries using Google’s location-based “near me” have grown from 150% (for an open near me search) to over 900% (for a near me + now / open now) search, and the trend is sure to keep rising. Below, a screenshot example from the search “museums near me” in Geneva.

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If you liked this article, read about more museum trends from the Museums & Heritage blog, here –  article.