Wayfinding and Location Services Tech
Starting a grassroots experiential engagement campaign can be a daunting task. But when you’ve got a mobile driver, steering the way through becomes a bit clearer. In chapter 1, we discussed how installing beaconing blends physical and digital touchpoints, making on-site in-person customer experiences more exciting. And, in chapter 2, we peeked inside the benefits of more advanced technology, like augmented reality and virtual reality, that can make in person or even off site experiences more immersive.
But when it comes to ‘steering’ customers along their journey, don’t you think we should talk about… how they get there. Blue dots. Live mapping. GPS. These are all great mapping tools that help get you from point A to point B. So let’s borrow a page from the transportation industry and look at how implementing wayfinding technology into your customer experience can take your experiential engagement tactics to the next level.
Let’s start off with an alarming yet eye-opening prediction about the future of wayfinding technology. Analysts believe the global indoor positioning and navigation (IPIN) market will grow at a CAGR of 58.90% from 2017 to 2021, a span of just four years.
This shows you a couple of things. First, it’s a trending method for delivering a unique experience to customers. Second, more and more businesses are coming to see its potential, which will contribute to its eventual rise in power and popularity.
As we’ve seen with many other modern technologies—augmented reality and beaconing included—you want to get ahead of the curve and adopt these methods before everyone else. At the very least, you want to beat the initial adoption wave, so that you’re already in a position to make an impact when trends move in your direction.
That’s essentially been the focus of our three-part series, looking into various technologies and methods with which you can use to augment the experiences you offer to your customers and audience.
Wayfinding is yet another form of engagement that you can use to really interact with your customers, and provide a more convenient visit or experience for any location you manage.
What Is Wayfinding?
Let’s start with the obvious. What is wayfinding exactly, and how can it be used in a business environment?
The term “wayfinding” was first coined by a man named Kevin Lynch, in a book from the 1960s titled The Image of the City. In it, Lynch discussed the concept of how users understand and interact with their surroundings, sometimes in common or expected ways. It was the foundation of environmental psychology and eventually helped influence many in the urban planning and development industry.
Over the years, it has evolved to encompass more than just basic ideas about situational awareness. It is a behavioral science, of sorts, that can be used to aid human navigation and customer experience. Ultimately, it involves the art of movement and how people might move through a structure, building or property. Many feel the concept is expressly about signage, and how you direct users around a structure. In reality, signage is just a single element of the overall concept.
Also included, is the idea of visual language or design, various forms of communication, and the understanding of common navigation trends and practices.
Here are just a few examples of wayfinding in the modern sense:
Up-to-date or real-time maps and digital directories
Augmented reality experiences with highlighted areas of interest
Direct-to-customer ads (promotions) and exclusive deals
Self-guided, automated tours of a property or venue
Traffic optimization and queue management to alleviate congestion
Limited mobility, disabled, and foreign language support
If there’s only one thing you take away from this definition, let it be this. How a person or customer manages to get from one place to another, effectively, within a business or structure relates directly to how well a particular system was designed. That system, the one which directs audiences and visitors and helps them find their way, is called wayfinding.
Why Is Wayfinding So Important?
If people can navigate on their own, why does wayfinding even matter? Do you really need to direct someone around a property or can you just place labels and allow them to find it on their own?
Wayfinding can be considered both a convenience and a courtesy. And while, yes, people tend to be smart enough to navigate on their own, various conditions can make doing that difficult. Have you ever been to a crowded city or environment, for example? It’s much harder to get around and find your way when you’re fighting chaos and crowds.
More importantly, in high-stress environments or situations like that, people tend to become confused and flustered. It’s natural human behavior, and in a way, wayfinding involves a basic understanding of this.
Wayfinding is meant to provide a seamless travel experience or journey for all. It’s an intuitive form of communication that directs them to their destination and removes any and all need for them to think or even problem solve. You want to create a wayfinding system so good, that no one has to ask directions or stop to figure out where they are at a given moment.
This is especially true of event centers and corporate business environments. People are busy, they have a strict schedule to adhere to, and they just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible.
By 2018, around 50% of learning providers will streamline the learner’s experience by providing modern, context-aware capabilities. This is wayfinding in the purest sense and allows companies to properly direct their audience.
You’ll find wayfinding and beacon navigation solutions in use at many properties today including:
Transit and Transportation Systems
Warehouses and Factories
Construction and Development Sites
Addressing User Experience Gaps with Wayfinding
One of the running themes of this series is how you can use the technology of question to address user experience gaps. With wayfinding, that still holds true, but things are a little different.
You see, customers aren’t familiar with a location, event venue, or executive business center most times they visit, unless they’ve been there several times. Even if they have been to the location before, there’s a good chance things are set up differently or maybe there was even a remodel. Both of those instances would facilitate the need to reacquaint oneself with a location.
This causes several things to happen. First, since customers are short on time, they might speed through a location or environment missing out on several opportunities along the way. This is a natural progression because they don’t want to get lost or be late to wherever it is they are going.
When there are group meetings, especially at a location not everyone is familiar with, you end up with one or two—maybe even more—people who are late. This is obviously a huge time sink and can cause many problems with a pre-configured schedule.
Finally, people tend to multi-task. Employees might be checking their email as they walk to a meeting center, for instance. Visitors may be talking on the phone with contacts or setting up appointments. Some may even be shopping or conducting business, unaware of the various things going on around them.
All of these problems or situations can be addressed through the use of modern wayfinding techniques. By setting up a guided tour or traffic flow, you can be sure that everyone is going exactly where you want them to and seeing exactly what you need them to along the way.
Berea, Kentucky uses wayfinding to enhance their city’s tourist appeal and boost the economy. Their system guides visitors through areas of the city, naturally and organically, to enhance their overall experience and journey.
Why Does Wayfinding Matter In the Business World?
One of the more obvious applications of wayfinding technology is in the corporate headquarters, or executive level business center. You can set up a system that directs new visitors and attendees to the appropriate meeting area. This is highly beneficial because it keeps them from getting lost or showing up late, but it can also give you the opportunity to introduce them to various experiences along the way.
Here are some ways the technology can be used in a business setting:
Old Fashioned Navigation: Getting from Point A to Point B
One of the more common ways to leverage wayfinding tech is to help people with traditional navigation, similar to a directory or property map. When dealing with this you would provide visitors with information about the shortest routes, travel times, various property or contact hotspots, and ultimately eliminate any guesswork.
In this situation, it’s more of a digital map or real-time navigation system meant to help customers, personnel, and visitors find their way around a property.
Automated and Self-Guided Tours
Unlike tourist centers and museums, you likely don’t have the resources to provide daily or hourly tours of your property. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide your visitors with such an experience. Modern, digital self-guided tours are incredibly popular these days, and would help people become familiar with your property or location.
This is especially great for interacting with new customers or partners and introducing them to your company and how your operations flow.
Before a meeting, event, or conference, one of the most frustrating things is trying to pinpoint the exact meeting room you need to be in. This is especially true on larger properties and in event centers, like venues or executive business hubs. But with an intelligent scheduling system that makes direct use of wayfinding tech, you can find out exactly where you’re supposed to be and when.
One of the other benefits of this setup is the option to locate available rooms or meeting areas filtered by group size and needs.
People or Contact Location
Sometimes, you just need to find a certain person or contact, as opposed to a room or area of a property. This can be extremely difficult when dealing with professionals that move about frequently. It ends up being a game of cat and mouse where you have to chase them around the property and search for breadcrumbs.
With wayfinding, however, you can locate various contacts, no matter where they are, and facilitate a meeting location. This usually entails communicating with them directly through a messaging service, as well. But perhaps more beneficial, the contact in question doesn’t have to stop what they’re doing at the moment. You can still locate and communicate with them while they finish the task at hand.
In a conventional environment, signage and directories would reveal movement patterns and points of interest along the way. With modern wayfinding, however, that can be augmented through the use of digital signage and more interactive elements. Imagine a nearby beacon that sends promotional content to a passerby's phone or an AR-enabled visitor stop that displays engaging material right on the spot.
By proxy, this helps boost sales and conversions simply because you’re interacting more closely with your audience. It’s a much-needed system that helps you engage and be present, even when you’re physically not.
Ingress/Egress Pattern Communication
Incidentally, people love to forge their own path. This doesn’t pose much of a problem until you start focusing on ingress and egress locations, especially for meeting centers and event venues.
You see, the room inside may be large but the entrance and exits can only accommodate so many. If the flow of traffic is congested or stifled in some way, you’re going to have real problems.
With a good wayfinding system, however, you can openly communication ingress and egress patterns to your visitors and attendees. They’ll know exactly where to go to reach the exit, or how to enter a meeting place and find their seating or viewing area.
Large Campus or Multi-Building Navigation
When you’re dealing with a large, multi-tiered or multi-building center, a proper wayfinding system is absolutely necessary. Without it, your visitors, customers, and personnel will never find their way around the property. If you’re talking about meetings or scheduled events, it’s going to be absolute chaos without a certain amount of direction.
This is where the modern aspects of wayfinding and combined beaconing can really come in handy. Digital signage, beacon content, and wayfinding apps can help facilitate the navigation and travel patterns around a property.
Believe it or not, these kinds of corporate campus and hotel property wayfinding solutions already exist.
Practical Use Cases of Wayfinding In the Executive Business Center
Indoor mapping, location-based services, and modern wayfinding are all necessary to update and prepare your property or event centers for a digital transformation. You see, this can better be described as a “digital revolution” or a complete revamp of traditional business practices. Not only do you need to deliver the kind of mobile and experiential engagement services more commonly associated with a digital transformation, you also have to update alternate channels—your physical location being one of these channels.
People want personalized, convenient, and connected experiences. It’s the way of the world now. Modern wayfinding, digital signage, and related technologies can help you go beyond simply providing an updated experience. They can help you boost engagement, sales, and attendance, especially when important events or meetings are concerned.
Imagine this, for the first time you waylay renting or relying on an event center to hold a brand-centric conference. Instead, you opt to have everyone attend via your business center or official property, that way they can become more familiar with you and what you stand for. More importantly, this gives you the opportunity to engage with everyone directly on your home turf.
How do you provide a self-guided experience that also happens to be accurate and reliable? How can you expect people that have never been to your property or center before to find their way around?
A great strategy is to use an integrated and community-based mobile app. You provide everyone with the necessary features and tools to do what it is they need. For example, the app can offer GPS and navigation details, public transport information, location data including history, facts, schedules, and contacts, and real-time alerts. But it doesn’t stop there. The app can also provide sharing channels, allowing people to upload pictures or social content to a feed, promotions and exclusive discounts, and even real-time ping tools to find a person or location on a property. Then there’s in-app messaging and communication support, a news feed for up-to-date announcements, and personalized notification support through push alerts.
The beauty of this scenario is that your visitors have all the tools and information they need, right there within a single app. Adversely, you can collect the kind of user experience data needed to optimize your event and deliver more optimal future strategies.
[In fact, we happen to know the perfect tool you can use for this. Learn more here.]