For hundreds of years, economists, psychologists, business executives and urban designers have worked tirelessly to understand how individuals make decisions in their everyday lives.

Why do individuals vote for a particular political candidate? What makes someone choose a specific grocery store over the other handful of competitors? Why are some retail locations thriving while others struggle to stay afloat?

According to one theory, answers can be found in how people vote with their feet.

Foot voting

Proposed by economist Charles Tiebout and recently popularized by legal scholar Ilya Somin, the concept of “voting with your feet” has been a cornerstone of understanding political, economic, and even consumer behaviors since its introduction in 1956.

Somin defines "foot voting" in a recent paper:

"There are at least three important types of foot voting in modern society: jurisdictional choice in federal systems, international migration, and choice among private sector institutions. Foot voting often involves physical movement from place to place. But the key attribute of all three types of foot voting that differentiate them from conventional ballot box voting is not movement, as such, but rather the ability to make an individually decisive choice."

Understanding the “vote” your employees and customers cast through their actions is crucial to building a more effective business and ultimately designing an environment that aligns with your organization's goals. The question is, how can you effectively listen to your customers and employees "votes" so you can make the best decisions for your organization?

The more you endeavor to understand how your customers and employees actually behave, the better informed your decisions will be and the more engaging your stores can be.

Are you listening?

In an increasingly competitive business environment, it’s both tempting and common to make decisions based solely on whether or not it is likely to improve your organization’s KPIs. Unfortunately, these decisions fail to account for how employees or customers actually behave.

  • You may decide to offer more products in hopes of increasing revenue, but your customers might just want one of your current products to be slightly improved.

  • You may purchase a dozen standing desks in hopes of increasing company productivity, but you may not notice that your office’s current standing desk goes unused.

The more you endeavor to understand how your customers and employees actually behave, the better informed your decisions will be and the more engaging your stores can be. You can't do this without data.

Making micro changes for macro results

When optimizing your stores, making periodic but massive changes can seem like the most logical solution to fixing issues, such as closing your least profitable location and spend the weekend rearranging the entire floor.

Making drastic changes to your spaces without data to back it up can end up costing significant amounts of lost time and financial resources.

When working to make changes in your store or workplace, consider adopting a less drastic and more data-driven approach to improvement. Rather than shutting down an entire store, change the layout of a certain display area and record how your customers react.

How are your customers and employees voting with their feet?

Understanding why your customers and employees behave in a certain gives you unique insights into why certain behaviors occur.

Librarians often spend time observing how certain areas of the library are used and make a note of the demographics and use cases of each specific area. Over time, they can then make minor tweaks and see how the guests of the library respond.

In an open workspace, if desks are often left empty, through careful observation you could conclude that the open space work desks are common for millennial employees but not very popular for those in different generations. The simple solution would be then to offer a hybrid of workspaces to ensure that every employee can function at peak efficiency.

Often the most impactful changes to your organization come not from a massive overhaul of your current business systems, but rather exploring the minor ways in which you can improve your space to accommodate the wide range of needs from all your customers and employees. You can’t do this without data.

In stores, considering the wants and needs of all your customer demographics allows you to create an inclusive environment for all of your customers. Millennials might respond well to automated help kiosks throughout your store, but different generations might find the experience frustrating. Could you offer a mix of automated help kiosks and having the option to speak with multiple in-person customer service reps stationed in your store?

Often the most impactful changes to your organization come not from a massive overhaul of your current business systems, but rather exploring the minor ways in which you can improve your space to accommodate the wide range of needs from all your customers and employees. You can’t do this without data.

Having accurate data and metrics of your store can help you better understand whether or not your current spaces are optimized. By committing to improving your location in with minor tweaks you can use the power of real-time feedback to ensure your decisions are backed with actual data.

Want to start keeping track of your customers' votes?

Get in touch with our team to get started with people counting →