4 Ways Visitor Centers Can Benefit from Traffic Counting

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traffic countingHistorical landmarks are commonly marked by visitor centers. Many tourists take these visitor centers for granted. However, due to tightening budgets, it can be difficult to upkeep and staff them appropriately. Traffic counting could be the solution that you may be looking for in regards to reporting and tracking historical trends.

Often visitor centers are 501(c)(3) or nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations, in some ways, need to be run like for-profit businesses to be successful.  Placing people counters at the center’s entrances and exits, as well in the separate sections of the visitor center, will reveal information that will allow you to make better business decisions about the visitor center.

1. Accurately track visitors per hour, day, week, or month to identify and compare trends

With a traffic counting solution installed, you will be able to accurately track the center’s visitors per hour, day, week and month. With this data, you will be able to identify trends that occur throughout the year as well as peak times throughout the day.

2. Ensure that your facility is always appropriately staffed

Keeping the center’s peak times in mind, you will be able to efficiently keep the center adequately staffed. Whether you need more maintenance staff, educational staff, or food service staff, you won’t come up short handed when the center gets swamped unexpectedly.

3. Track which parts of your center are the most popular

With the information recorded through traffic counting solutions, you can determine which parts of the visitor center receive the most foot traffic. Placing people counters not just at entrances and exits, but also within the different exhibits of your visitor center, will give you separate readings for each section of your center.

You will be able to determine what makes the more popular sections draw more people. You can use that information to make the other parts of the center more appealing to visitors. Also, consider the layout of your visitor center. Is it pulling visitors through the entirety of the center? Or, are you unknowingly emphasizing only a few portions of it so that the rest of it falls to the wayside?

4. Use data generated to create solid funding requests and to draw more people

Probably the most compelling argument for implementing a traffic counting solution is the ability to generate reports based on historical trends and data regarding people served. With this information, you will be able to create solid funding requests with real statistics, drastically increasing your chances for additional funding. Potential funders want to see results and impact before investing. With a traffic counting solution, you will be able to give them just that.

You will also gain insight to the most popular sections of the visitor center. Using this information, you can create more compelling marketing materials such as travel brochures and maps. In addition to that, you will know which information to market on your social media pages, drawing more of an audience and pulling more people to your visitor center.

Traffic counting is vital for making better informed business decisions for visitor centers. A traffic counting solution will eliminate the stressful guesswork in staffing, funding requests, and marketing for your visitor center.

Will Universities and Retailers Start Joining Forces to Stay Afloat?

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College students moving in to the university campusWhen we were in high school, applying to college was a rite of passage. Seniors would apply to two- or four-year schools and then wait for the mail every day, in anticipation of the thick envelopes that signified acceptance. Today, more high school graduates are starting to choose alternate paths. In fact, NBC News recently pointed out that college enrollments are declining.

Tuition costs rising

Tuition costs have risen exponentially since 2000, mainly because nearly every cost associated with going to college has gone up. Colleges—both public and private—find themselves spending more on research (especially at research-focused institutions), student services and instructional staff. Private universities are reporting a dip in gifts and donations, because families have been putting those funds toward paying their tuition bill instead.

Last year, NBC reported that the cost of tuition at a private college increased a mere 3.8 percent, which was considered a bargain compared to larger increases seen in previous years. And for in-state students attending public universities, they had to spend just 2.9 percent more, which was the smallest increase in more than 30 years.

Enrollments decreasing

In 2012, the number of students attending college fell by almost half a million people after more than 20 years of rising enrollment. One would think that higher learning institutions would also cut their costs to help attract new students, but it’s unlikely we will be that lucky.

The bills still need to be paid and private schools often spend more educating each student than their tuition covers, so financial contributions cover the gap. However, with less money coming from alumni donations and endowment funds, colleges need to find another way to make up the difference.

Local retailers suffering

A declining enrollment obviously impacts the university, but it also has implications for the community around the campus as well. Restaurants and stores that receive frequent patronage from the student body also lose business, which could force them to downsize or ultimately close. These businesses are already facing competition from online retailers, who make it easier than ever to purchase school supplies, clothing and even groceries, which is ideal for busy students who only have a few minutes during a study break or between activities.

These losses translate into a less vibrant community, with fewer coffee shops to study in and a smaller selection of shops and restaurants. This is especially detrimental to students who do not have cars on campus and cannot drive to alternate shopping destinations.

A possible solution: university and retail sectors merging

One community college in California, Ohlone College, has decided to launch an initiative to raise additional revenue for the school using its unused property. According to the Contra Costa Times, the school is considering leasing 15 acres of surplus land to a local developer for 90 years.  The developer would build apartments on the land that would provide a new revenue stream for the university.

The idea to build new housing on university land was born out of necessity, and as more institutions find themselves in a similar situation, we may see more of these types of projects in the future. Clearly, it’s a new way to fund the institution and maintain the retail and restaurants that serve the student body. Preserving the community surrounding a university is critical, as vibrant social centers are what help to draw new students and give the university its character, even as the pool of high school graduates shrinks.

Universities and their facility management teams can see how successful their alternative revenue streams—whether it’s new housing or another initiative—are by tracking and counting people they attract over time.  If the new housing is providing fresh revenue for the university, traffic in the neighborhood will increase.

Many colleges already employ people counting sensors and technology in their student unions, libraries and book stores. Similarly, university-owned and privately owned retailers and businesses can use people counting to see the tangible results the new housing is having on their bottom line.

University budgets tight, tuition high in 2014

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bigstock-Students-Hiding-There-Face-Wit-43858558State governors are beginning to unveil their budget plans for 2014. Although things are looking up from last year for higher education budgets, universities are still expressing concern about their ability to provide for their students.

California

Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that his budget plan would include a $142 million increase to the University of California as well as state Universities. But he has a few conditions: that universities show measurable evidence of improved student success and promise not to raise student fees.

While Brown’s budget plan is a step in the right direction, a few problems remain. For students, tuition is still high. For universities, there is increased pressure to improve campus resources and undo the damage caused by the last few rounds of budget cuts.

Tuition has risen at universities across the country since the recession hit in 2007, so students and their families fear they will continue to struggle with the same financial issues in 2014 that they have been plagued with for the past five years. They have been financially burdened by both high tuitions and several years of schooling.

Brown said state schools aren’t graduating their students quickly enough; some students need several years to complete their degree. This growing trend is due to students not having enough money to pay full-time tuition, having to work part-time, certain classes not being offered every, and/or programs being cut. To speed up the graduation process, Brown suggested that schools be more flexible, offering online courses and other options.

His statements could be disconcerting for some universities – especially those that were already been struggled to provide for their students without the added pressure to speed up the graduation process.

Arizona

Similar issues are arising in Arizona. Lawmakers increased the state’s higher education budget by $28.2 million, but tuitions remain high. At the state capitol, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said the state universities’ request for an additional $100 million was “very prudent.”

He pointed out that, aside from California, tuition in Arizona has gone up more over the last five years than any other public university system in the U.S. He also stressed the importance of educating students so that when they enter the workforce, they are able to complete “high tech, high-paying sustainable jobs.”

Campbell believes universities are not to blame. “They have done what they needed to do because I don’t think we’ve done our job,” he said.

The problem

Long story short: it isn’t time to celebrate just yet. On one hand, high tuition puts pressure on universities to make sure students are getting their money’s worth – to provide more resources, classes and services. On the other hand, even if universities are able to improve student success, students and their families will still struggle to pay tuition.

Not to mention, in general, university enrollment continues to increase. Many universities in the U.S. need the extra money to accommodate their influx of new students each year, in addition to maintaining or improving their educational offerings.

A solution

People counting systems allow universities to keep a close eye on their tight budgets while still providing exceptional service to their students. They also allow schools to saving money on labor and supplies and increase profits by determining the most profitable areas on campus.

Universities can install people counting sensors above doors, hallways and seating areas in campus buildings to track the amount of people who enter and exit each day. These numbers are sent to a central system, where the information is consolidated into a meaningful report showing how many people visited the building in a given period of time. These numbers can then be used to determine an appropriate number of staff members, building hours, supplies and resources to ensure that universities are only spending as much as they need to.

In 2014, every little bit will help for universities.

5 Ways for Your Nonprofit to Use Visual Content on Social Media

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bigstock-Social-Media-Word-Cloud-10422092By now, most nonprofits know that social media smarts are a must for marketing. What some of them don’t know is how to use social media to its fullest potential: visual content.

It’s a fact that visual content drives engagement. According to Zabisco, 40 percent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Likewise, one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content saw a 65 percent increase in engagement, according to Simply Measured.

Promote merchandise and fundraisers

Merchandise is a great tool for brand awareness. You can dedicate a Facebook photo album, Instagram hash tag or Pinterest board to your t-shirts, wristbands and buttons, all with your branding. This works especially well for brands that make use of clever sayings, like Keep a Breast’s “I Heart Boobies.”

A great way to exercise this strategy is to post pictures of sponsors and volunteers wearing your merchandise. Pinterest is probably the best outlet for promoting merchandise. The site drives sales directly from its website. Twenty-one percent of people with Pinterest accounts purchased an item after seeing it on Pinterest, according to PriceGrabber.

You can also apply this social media marketing strategy to your fundraisers. Instead of posting photos of your merchandise, you can post Facebook and Twitter updates about incentives to raise money – silent auctions, Chinese auctions, raffles, drawings, etc. You can establish yourself as a leader in creativity, inspiring other nonprofits to find new ways to fundraise.

Highlight sponsors

Social media can be used to thank your sponsors – a great way to show your appreciation of the support they have given your organization. It’s a win-win for you and your sponsors – they can share it to their social media network and their audience will become aware of your organization and cause.

Larger-scale nonprofit organizations can dedicate Facebook and Twitter updates, Pinterest boards and Instagram hash tags to celebrities and well-known people who have supported their organization by donating, volunteering or attending an events. Smaller-scale organizations who many not have well-known ambassadors can do the same thing but simply with members of the community that have an interesting story or background.

A great way to do this would be to post a video of them speaking about your organization or participating in one of your events. For example, the Gates Foundation shares videos on its Pinterest account, including talks by Bill and Melinda Gates. While photos are a great resource, videos can take your content to the next level. And according to SEOmoz, posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts.

Highlight trips and events

Highlighting trips and events by posting on-location is a wonderful way to show your supporters the impact they are making. This social media marketing tactic is perfect for nonprofits who organize clean-ups, mission trips, learning workshops, food drives and so on.

Imagine videos of members of your organization helping build a school in Nicaragua, and pictures and stories about the people they have met along the way. People can see first-hand the work that you are doing. It tells a story way better than a news update on your website would.

Also, these are the kinds of videos that people love to watch and share. An especially emotional one could go viral and inspire others to contribute to your cause. You could even highlight videos from your travels and events on a dedicated Pinterest board. Trust me on this one. Viewers spend 100 percent more time on pages with videos on them, according to MarketingSherpa.

Spread awareness

When it comes to spreading awareness, if the internet gives nonprofits a voice then it can be said that social media gives them a megaphone. Sharing tips and statistics is a simple task on any social media outlet. Your organization can author a series of updates that provide information relating to your cause, such as “breast cancer warning signs” or “how to help a loved one cope with cancer.” This will not only be a powerful resource for your supporters, but for anyone who might be affected by your cause.

A new and innovative way to share simple information is with an infographic – an informational graphic that can be easily shared on any social media. They’re not only engaging, but traffic-driving. Publishers who use infographics grow an average of 12 percent more traffic according to AnsonAlex.

Visual content is not only being increasingly used in online marketing, but is also especially important for nonprofits organizations. With each cause and mission comes thousands of stories to tell. Social media gives supporters, fundraisers, donors and volunteers a place to see and share these stories with engaging visuals.

How to Use a People Counting System to Justify Your Requests

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Justify requestsPeople counting technology is crucial for justifying requests because it answers questions that a POS system cannot. This is especially true in the case of nonprofit organizations and learning facilities like public libraries, museums and university centers. People counting data provides insight into the amount of people being serviced by these facilities and the amount of people using their resources.

Additional technology requests
Requests for additional technology resources like computer labs, iPads® or printers are often hard to swing due to their expensive nature. Buildings like libraries, museums and student unions need several of each unit to serve waves of visitors and students. They often need to replenish their existing resources or request additional resources as their technology is used by thousands of people and used thousands of times. Also, as technology continues to advance and educational resources become increasingly digitized, it is in the best interest of these learning environments to keep their equipment up-to-date to better serve their communities.

Librarians, museum curators and university boards can install people counters near each exit, area or floor of their buildings to gain information about their heavy and light traffic areas. By comparing the traffic numbers of different areas, they can understand the best and most easily accessed areas to place computer labs, printing stations, interactive exhibits that utilize iPads® or tablets or any other type of technology that would benefit the facility and its users. They can also compare areas that house existing technology to determine which resources visitors use most often or find most useful.

And with their people counting data, these facilities can make cases to their administration for these resources. By proving that you are a valuable resource for a large amount people in your school or community, you can justify requests for an increased budget with hard numbers and metrics that prove the necessity for new technology.

To upgrade current technology, the process is the same. By knowing the amount of people that use your technology on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, you can prove the legitimacy of their wear and tear or prove the necessity of upgrades and replacements.

Staffing requests
In today’s economy, budgets for nonprofits, libraries and universities have tightened. Historically, they have been forced to make reductions to their staff and hours of operation. However, as funds decrease, the amount of people who visit these facilities stays the same. Communities and campuses still have the same amount of people to service, and therefore need the same amount of staff members and operating hours.

With people counting data, these facilities can prove the necessity of their existing staff or the need for additional staff members. A people counting system can provide information about a facility that cannot be gained from a POS system – the amount of students or community members who enter the building without making a transaction. People who do not make purchases still need access to service and resources, and oftentimes they cannot gain that access without an employee. Providing traffic numbers can prove to administration or school boards that usage of the facility has increased, even if circulation or sales transactions are down.

Fight budget cuts and closings
Libraries, student unions and museums – in light of the digital takeover of media, education budget cuts and the rough state of the economy, respectively – might have to fight to stay open or keep their resources. However, a decrease in resources or funds does not necessarily mean a decrease in visitors. While these facilities typically don’t generate much (if any) revenue, people counting systems can produce reports that prove that these facilities are used and valued by a large number of people and staying open would be in the best interest of the students or the community. It can help facilities to ensure they don’t get the axe when budget cuts are made.

You know that your facility, services and resources are useful to the community, but people counting systems allow you to make sure that others know, too. Leveraging people counting data to justify requests can prove to be a much more powerful method than petitioning or providing sales history

How People Counters Can Improve Museum Experience

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Dinosaure in museumMuseums vary from one to another. Some value education over conservation. Some value conservation over education. Museums that favor conservation are more inclined to show preserved artifacts and antiques, sparking visitor interest with an accurate portrayal of the past. More educational museums may be more inclined to show videos, introduce guest speakers and include interactive activities. Whichever the focus, museum curators want to make sure that their exhibits are eye-catching.

Museum curators want to know how visitors feel about their experience. Did they want it to end before they reached the end? Did they reach the end wanting more? Were they bored? Were they excited and engaged? It would be extremely time-consuming to invite every single guest to fill out comment cards or surveys and then review them. There is a much easier way to gain insight into visitors’ overall experience.

Installing people counters at the entrance and exit, as well as additional floors and rooms in the museum, will paint an accurate picture for curators. They can determine how many of the visitors who enter actually make it through to the exit. Smaller museums may only need a counter at the entrance and exit, while larger museums can install counters in each room, floor or wing to determine the traffic in each.

By analyzing and comparing the traffic amounts from each people counter, curators can determine the percentage of total traffic for each area or exhibit. In doing so, curators can assess interruptions or complications in the flow of visitors: “traffic jams,” no man’s lands or areas where directions are confusing. They can also determine which areas and exhibits are the most or least popular.

People counters can answer questions like:

• Where are visitors most engaged?
• Where do they lose interest?
• Where do they end their visit?

Send the right messages
Finding the answers to these questions can provide a wealth of knowledge for curators. They can figure out which areas to concentrate their efforts and their budget and which areas need more work. A lack of interest could mean that the mission or message of the museum is not being exhibited in as clear or compelling a way as it could.

Make smart business decisions
It could also help curators to determine the popularity or effectiveness of a travelling or temporary exhibit. If the exhibit does not do well, it could keep them from investing in a similar one in the future. People counters can serve as a potential money-saver in those situations, allowing curators to make more informed business decisions. On the flip side, exhibits that prove to be doing well can be expanded. Curators will be able to make this decision knowing that it will get a good response.

Incorporate technology
After comparing traffic numbers from each exhibit, museum curators may find that the exhibits or area of the museum that are getting the most footfall are more interactive or hands-on and involve technology. Depending on the size and scope of the museum, curators could use metrics from their people counting system to make a case for an increased budget to incorporate more technology-based exhibits.

The goal of each exhibit is to take the visitor back to a specific place or time period in the past while being both engaging and informative. Traffic insight can help curators effectively carry out that mission. They can provide the public with exhibits and activities that their visitors will find relevant, interesting, engaging or inspiring – while also ensuring that they reflect the mission and message of the museum and contribute to their visitors’ understanding of the past.

Thermal Sensors: How Your Building Can Go Green

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Green businesses benefit both the environment and their employees. They promote a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable future for anybody who steps foot in their building. And they save some money in the process.

General Electric and Walmart, for example, have been going green since 2005. By 2011, GE was able to sell $70 billion in green products and services. The company has saved so much money that it is committed to doubling its green investments to $2 billion each year for five years. Walmart invested $500 million in sustainability projects that have proved profitable – and it is also saving $500 million each year.

Sure, it is important to measure emissions, air quality and energy usage in your building – but something is missing from the equation. You can’t ensure that have a sustainable building and safe occupants unless you measure the amount of people in your building each day. Do you know how much energy your customers are consuming? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

People counters have already been proven as a useful tool for businesses to cut down on labor costs, but they can also be used to cut energy waste. Thermal people counting sensors provide accurate readings of the amount of people who have entered a zone during the day. They are more accurate than motion sensors and don’t make loud, distracting beeping noises as each person passes by.

Here’s how they can help you:

Identify and eliminate your building’s wasted utilities.

    • It’s easy to install energy-efficient devices in your building or to make sure employees use less resources, but it’s hard to control your customers’ energy consumption… unless you use a people counting system, that is. You can tailor your green efforts to the amount of people you see or serve to make sure you’re saving as much as possible.
    • More specifically, you can track the areas with the most traffic and save your allotted energy for those spaces. Instead of calculating estimates for the entire building as a whole, you could do it room by room and to maximize your energy savings.
    • Think of it this way: Why keep the lights on in the whole building if only three rooms are occupied? Why keep televisions on in a room that is rarely occupied?

Measure the effectiveness of your efforts over time.

    • Energy-efficient efforts like compact fluorescent light bulbs, smart power strips, faucet aerators and high-efficiency toilets are all well and good, but a people counter system will help you make specific estimates of your building’s needs that will ultimately save you even more energy and money.
    • By counting how many customers or visitors you have had in different zones, you will be able to calculate the amount of utilities needed vs. the amount of utilities used. How will you know the amount of utilities needed in your building if you don’t know how many people will be using them and how often?
    • With data from your thermal people counting sensor, you could even calculate an accurate rate of the consumption cost per person in your building and use it to estimate and optimize energy costs. You can see how those numbers have changed over time. Tracking traffic and observing trends can clue you in to whether or not you should continue certain efforts.
    • Data reports from your people counting system could also as a way for you to track your total amount of energy savings per person. You could share these numbers with your customers so they can better understand and appreciate your efforts.

How much are you wasting?

3 Reasons Why People Counting is Essential for Student Unions

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People counting is not only ideal for institutions that generate revenue, but also for those who don’t. Non-profit organizations and state-funded programs need accurate data about the number of visitors they garner in order to request resources.

Student unions are generally the hub of activity for a college campus. Throughout the day, crowds of students and faculty members come between classes. With a flow of visitors that is constantly fluctuating, it isn’t easy to keep track of how many there are. Without knowing how many visitors there are, it is impossible to know how many resources are needed to accommodate them. Keeping track of trafficking ensures that the facility is operating at optimal efficiency.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment increased 37 percent in the United States. Much of this increase was in full-time enrollment, with the number of full-time students rising 45 percent. Increases in enrollment inevitably lead to increased trafficking in campus buildings.

Being in-tune with the building’s trafficking is helpful for these reasons:

1. Measure which areas are used most.

  • Knowing the most-traveled doors and hallways in the building may come in handy when placing informational fliers, kiosks or help desks for new students.
  • Also, knowing which areas of the student union receive the most trafficking tells the school where to concentrate its money. It may be the fitness center; it may be the cafeteria. Whichever the area, if it is heavily-traveled then it is likely to return the money that was spent in it.
  • For example: If free concerts were held at a student union, it would be helpful for the programming board to know which acts the students liked or didn’t like. That way, they won’t waste their time booking entertainers that don’t entertain their students. And if they wanted to bring in more expensive entertainers, they would have a better idea of which acts would bring the most money.

2. Optimize employee placement for peak and non-peak times.

  • Managers can calculate building hours and personnel needs based on actual data reports from the people counting hardware, rather than making estimations. With a sensor installed, the building may never be over- or understaffed again.
  • Because of school budgets, it is important for student unions to use their money wisely. Many student centers can’t afford to pay several employees on the same shift, and even if they can, they shouldn’t have to. People counting allows student unions to optimize their labor.
  • People counting can be used to estimate the proper amount of employees for peak and non-peak times on an average day – and on the not-so-average days, too. When hosting well-attended events – sometimes several at once – the building may need more staffing. People counting helps you predict and prepare for special occasions.

3. Justify requests for additional resources.

  • Non-profit organizations can estimate their staffing and funding needs based on the data, and then use the data to justify their requests for staffing or state funding. Providing data that proves an increase in traffic in a student union justifies the need for more funding for computers, printers, weight machines, chairs, plates or anything else the building offers. It can also justify the need for additional employees to serve more food, give more tours, etc.
  • With an increased amount of students using a fixed amount of resources, a school’s budget is bound to tighten. However, if people counting hardware is installed in the student union, the sensors will pick up on the increase in trafficking. This data ensures that student union resources don’t get the axe when it comes time to make budget cuts.

Student centers and unions at Boise State University, Eastern Michigan University, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Ohio State University, University of Arizona, University of Utah and University of Wisconsin currently use people counting hardware in their buildings. And your school could be next.

While reading and analyzing data reports sounds like a lot of work, it isn’t. You do not have to manually generate the reports; you can have them sent to you every week or month. The initial amount of money and time spent buying and using the hardware is well worth the eventual benefits.