Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Hoxton Analytics: making retail smarter

January 4, 2016

Two data scientists are set to transform how retailers understand their customers – based on the shoes they wear.

hoxton analytics - click interviewOwen McCormack and Will Thomas, founders of Hoxton Analytics, are the latest start-up to take up residence at our innovation centre IDEALondon.

What they’ve created is an in-store data analytics system that avoids data privacy issues. It turns out you can work out some really useful information about shoppers as they walk into a store, just by looking at their footwear.

Using a small camera about 50cm from the floor, they’re able to capture relevant demographics and footfall data, allowing retailers to better understand who their customers are and how they use the store.

“In-store analytics can be invasive – it’s very hard to passively gather data on people without taking privacy-sensitive data. What makes us different is that we can collect relevant information based not on who they are, but what they wear,” said Owen.

“It’s a brand new angle on the whole problem. Rather than using an invasive technology like facial recognition, you can get the information you need just by looking at the shoes people are wearing.”

Another benefit over facial recognition is accuracy – surprisingly, Hoxton Analytics counts footfall at an industry-leading accuracy rate of 95% – and it can determine gender at accuracy of 80%.

“Your eyes and face are unique to you, as is your mobile signal, said Owen. “But capturing such personal information is unnecessary for me to understand, for example, that you’re a male walking in with a family, wearing smart clothes.”

“We get that from what shoes you’re wearing, and that’s the key data to help retailers make more informed decisions around merchandising, staffing, store layout and advertising efficacy. We don’t need to know your address.”

Hoxton Analytics was formed 18 months ago after the two co-founders met at UCL where they were studying for a Masters in Big Data Analytics.

After completing a thesis on the problem Owen said he was ‘delighted’ with how well the solution works. And with backgrounds in finance and strategy consulting, the pair are finely poised to take the retail world by storm.

“With our solution, we can help a retailer optimise their store around when they’re busy, and what sort of people are coming in at certain times,” Will explained.

“For instance – if you have lots of families coming in on a Sunday morning, you can set up your store to better suit them.

“We can even deploy the cameras in the aisle, and at the point of sale. All that data is incredibly powerful for a retailer.”

Six weeks into their residence at IDEAL, they are loving life in at the Shoreditch centre so far.

“We’re still settling in and finding the rhythm of the place,” said Owen. “But it’s really fantastic to be here and the support Cisco has given us so far has been amazing.

“For start-ups it can be a real challenge to find their way without leveraging the support of larger companies.

“We’ve already met a few of Cisco’s customers to present to and get their thoughts. A lot of the real benefit has come from tapping into the knowledge and resources that Cisco has in-house.”

Our time together draws to a close and they have to shoot off – but for good reason.

Later on they’ll be interviewed by the BBC’s technology show Click at the Dandy Lab (the Cisco-supported retail technology lab/boutique store in Shoreditch) and there’s some final preparation to be made.

We wish them luck, and we’re absolutely certain we’ll be seeing more of Hoxton Analytics. Next time we sit down with them, we’ll be sure to pay more attention to our footwear…

See how the interview with Click went on the BBC News website.

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  1. Excellent reading, Tom. Hoxton Analytics and startups alike are real good examples of how innovation should be addressed and implemented. These are no longer gadgets, yet actual customer business requirements of today that lead to incremental revenue generation opportunities.