The recession is having an impact on every business, regardless of size. While in most cases it is contributing to a serious slowdown in sales, for some it is having the opposite effect. Only a couple of months ago, one large grocery retailer posted record profits despite the UK's worst economic crisis for decades, while in January another announced it was creating 7,000 new jobs.

For others hoping to replicate that success in these tough times, a good place to start is with what keeps their businesses alive customers.

As in all sectors, customers are the most important cogs in the wheel, funding a UK market worth in excess of £134.8bn. Could this figure be increased even further by better understanding shoppers' behaviour?

Maximising sales opportunities, along with ensuring the greatest operational efficiency, is key. Although it may seem daunting, gaining insights into this area can be achieved with enough actionable information.
Data is an integral component in the profitable running of any business. But it is one thing having access to raw figures and quite another actually transforming them into usable information. Technology plays a large part in gleaning this intelligence and is gradually becoming the preferred method of choice for retailers looking to attract new customers, retain existing ones, gain competitive advantage and increase sales and profits.

In a recent poll by the British Retail Consortium, 54% claimed they already use technology to improve the shopping experience. One of the most successful tactics involves looking at store visitor metrics to determine when, where and what customers purchase in-store. Using the right tools, simple in/out visitor numbers can provide insights into key operational activity.

Knowing when stores are at their busiest and how many visitors become customers provides data that can then be used to target marketing campaigns, efficiently plan staff hours and reduce queues all of which will help boost sales, profits and customer retention.

Simon Edgar is European business manager of CheckPro Shrink Management Solutions.