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New Opportunities that Advances in Digital Wayfinding can Create for Businesses

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by Startacus Admin


Joe Fernandes, founder and CEO of award-winning navigation platform, BuzzStreets, shares his insights on how new technology can advance wayfinding and boost business.

At the core of many a startup is taking something we have all become used to and making it better. If your business relies on bringing customers to your door to buy your products or services, you should have a keen interest in something that has been around for a while: wayfinding.

photo-1638447841552-8194177a5536Wayfinding helps people navigate from one area of a physical space to another via effective communication of relevant information. Traditional wayfinding, delivered through signage and on-wall maps (the classic ‘you are here’ arrow or dot), has limits to its effectiveness.

Indoor digital wayfinding, developed by companies like BuzzStreets, uses a system of BLE Beacons, Wi-Fi signals, and the Earth’s magnetic field to pinpoint the person’s location, giving them real-time directions, both spoken and visual, to allow them to navigate through a building, both horizontally and vertically.

When the person arrives at the office/shopping mall/sports stadium etc., they open an app that calculates a route from their current location to the point in the building they need: it shows a map of the location, and their route is clearly marked. Just like traditional car sat-nav systems they then press ‘start’ and the app visually shows them where to head and audibly advises them.

As they progress along the route the app constantly updates showing them where they are and giving them regular voice and visual updates to show them where and when to turn, go straight-on, or change floors. It will also let the person know when they have arrived at their destination. However, unlike car sat-nav the system is accurate to 1-2metres as the ‘sensors’ are within the building (not 12,000 miles away in space).

This means it can take a person directly to their seat, or a specific shop, or even a location within a shop.

So where does traditional wayfinding fall down, and what are the advantages of digital wayfinding?

A Wayfinding Fail
Imagine you are visiting one of the many purpose-built shopping centres found up and down the country. You have never been to this shopping centre before, but a Google search reveals that at one end of the centre is a large supermarket, which has a large car parking area outside its doors. There are also extensive parking facilities at the opposite end of the shopping centre, where a number of restaurants are located; the centre’s food court is nearby, as is a cinema. The as-the-crow-flies distance from one end of the shopping centre to the other is a little over half a mile and walking from one end to the other is estimated by Google to take close to fifteen minutes. This is all useful information. But it is not wayfinding.

pexels-photo-10983249.Armed with the information provided by Google Maps, you set out for the shopping centre with the aim of purchasing items at the supermarket, finding somewhere to cut keys, grabbing some lunch, and buying tickets for a movie showing the following evening. You are hungry, so you decide to have lunch first, and you opt to use the car park at the end of the shopping centre where the restaurants are located. You are in the mood for pizza and after checking the menus displayed outside of the various restaurants, you find that only one offers pizza. It is a little pricey, but you want pizza.

Next, you set out for the cinema, but it takes you a bit of time to find it, because, although the cinema had registered with Google Maps, the image on your phone gives no indication that the cinema is actually located on an upper level. When you do work out where the cinema is, it turns out to be closed for renovations.

You turn your attention to finding somewhere to cut keys, and as Google Maps doesn’t show any locksmiths in the area, you turn to the shopping centre’s list of outlets, which includes a locksmith. You use your phone to take a couple of photos of the shopping centre’s map showing the locations of the various shops (the map is too large to fit into one readable image) and you manage to use those two images to make your way to where the locksmith should be. But that retail unit is empty.

Surely the supermarket will be open? And it is. And it includes space allocated to the locksmith who recently gave up his own retail space to take advantage of the superior footfall of the supermarket, and the supermarket has its own café specialising in … pizza. The pizza is priced considerably lower than the restaurant at the other end of the shopping centre, where you will need to carry your supermarket shopping to because that is where your car is parked.

How digital wayfinding can help

If you had had access to efficient and regularly updated digital wayfinding, you would have known to park next to the supermarket because that was where you would find everything you needed, except the cinema, which digital wayfinding would have told you was not open. You would have saved time, money and shoe leather.

Frustrated customers, wandering around aimlessly looking for specific services or brands, or not knowing which services and brands are available is not good for the businesses operating in a shopping centre or mall. Yet 69% of customers who visit a shopping mall get lost at least three times. Employing digital wayfinding can help reduce the number of lost shoppers, plus boost footfall: a 41% increase in footfall has been attributed to wayfinding technologies in shopping malls.

Additional data availability

pexels-photo-4027948.There are advantages to retail businesses beyond keeping customers chipper; digital wayfinding technology can gather extremely useful anonymous navigation data:

  • How do people move around your shopping centre?
  • Where does your shopping centre get the highest footfall?
  • What route do they take to the car park?
  • When are people most likely to buy food?

Data can help answer all of these questions and many more. Shopping centres can use this data to optimise their environments to improve the user experience, save money, and market their available retail spaces.

If a specific area of a shopping centre gets particularly high foot traffic, the retail space around it may be worth a lot more (in terms of rent) than areas with less footfall. Centre owners can then maximise the value of their space. If an event is being planned in the shopping centre (perhaps a fashion show to promote the centre’s clothing brands, or a concert by local schoolchildren to raise money for charity, or a Christmas grotto), data can help determine the ideal location to host the event that will cause the minimum of disruption and/or identify the areas with the type of footfall that is most appropriate for the event.

Data can allow businesses to optimise their environments and also their resources, such as laptops and tablets. If you need a piece of technology, but it’s not where it should be, location data can help you track it down. Perhaps you find that some equipment is regularly being transported long distances around your office, in which case it would save time and money to buy a second machine.

Whether a business needs to move people (customers, clients or staff) from A to B efficiently, or make the most of their business space (retail units or meeting rooms), using real-time data improves the chances of that business meeting (or exceeding) its goals.

Joe FernandesAbout the Author

Joe Fernandes is founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, an award-winning navigation platform, that enables organisations (hospitals, shopping malls, airports, offices, stadiums, etc.) to offer their customers an indoor way-finder that allows them to navigate inside the building. The client arrives at the entrance or reception and then uses the bespoke app to navigate to the specific location (room, shop, check-in, office, or even seat) they need. BuzzStreets also supplies movement analytics that can help improve building efficiency and keep track of vital equipment.


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Published on: 26th January 2022

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