By Joe Fernandes, founder and CEO, BuzzStreets
Humans have been wayfinding since the start of civilisation ─ by following stars, drawing maps and creating signs. And now indoor wayfinding solutions are also being developed that will help us navigate, not just to the entrance, but to the very room, person, or shelf we want.
For as long as there has been wayfinding of any variety, businesses have been using it to help direct people towards their premises. By providing clear guidance on how to find their shop, workplace or office, businesses attract more customers and greater income.
Whether you have a stand-alone office easily found on sat nav or a shop within a larger centre like a mall or airport—where you need an indoor solution—people need to be able to find you. Making it easy for them to navigate not just to your front door, but to the office, department, or item they want, can make a huge difference.
No one likes feeling lost ─ it’s confusing and stressful. However, finding a place of business quickly and easily creates a positive feeling of support and calm professionalism. Customers feel that they can rely on you to show them the way – it is the beginning of building trust. Trusted companies are more popular, and they do more business.
So, since wayfinding is such an important aspect of running a business, how can you use it to boost your business?
Some of the basics will sound obvious but many businesses get them wrong or miss key details, so they’re always worth mentioning.
Having clear signage outside your business is pretty obvious. Yet, we’ve all had moments of uncertainty and doubt visiting an industrial estate or retail park, wondering whether we’ve gone the right way. Make it clear and obvious when people are close, and they will feel confident and relieved to find you easily.
Additionally, making sure that the directions to your business are very clear is useful. Too much detail is confusing but not enough can leave people stranded or making a wrong turn.
It can be helpful to include a few directions about where people can park, which entrance to go through, as well as any details that might let them know they’ve reached the right place. You may even consider including a few photos to help reassure customers that they’ve gone the right way since many people are visual learners!
Since most people will be using sat-navs in their car or smartphone, make sure that your address is sat-nav friendly. That means including a business name and postcode that Google can find, including a building number rather than just a business name, and clearing up any ambiguity that sat-navs sometimes cause, such as one-way systems or other nearby businesses with similar names.
Also be sure to tell people whether there is available parking and, if so, where are the best places to park. This can save a lot of hassle and missed appointments while people try to find a suitable parking spot.
But don’t assume that everyone will be driving. Knowing which bus routes to get, which stops to get off at and the frequency of buses and trains can all help reassure those coming by public transport.
To elevate your wayfinding into a marketing tool, show how your business is connected to your local community. For example, pointing out other local businesses or points of interest shows that you are integrated within and supportive of your community.
You could include images of the local pub or school on the corner to let people know that they are close. These visual reminders are both useful and place your business within a wider community that will help customers feel secure and that they are dealing with a knowledgeable, friendly brand.
Supporting other (non-competitive) businesses is another way of being helpful while showing that you champion your community. Tell them where the best place to get a coffee is or where your staff tend to get the best lunchtime snacks. Perhaps there is a hidden gem, such as a nearby burrito stand, they can visit.
If there are any interesting points along the way, you could tell people a little about the history: the statue of the elephant on the roundabout near your premises was placed there in 1905 to celebrate Edward VII visiting the area. Again, this shows that you are connected to the community, know the history and are friendly and informative.
Most businesses think that wayfinding stops at the entrance to the building. Yet, we’ve all got lost and turned around within a building, leading to confusion and frustration – this could mean losing business.
Indoor wayfinding is an often-overlooked way of helping people easily find you once they reach your building. This is especially important if you are situated within a shopping mall, large, shared office building or you are a concession within a larger store (such as a department store, garden centre, etc.).
Using an indoor wayfinding system helps people find your business within these larger, more complex environments. System like BuzzStreets can also provide the best route – the quickest, least busy or without too many stairs. You could even point out useful places along the way, such as the nearest toilets or coffee shop inside the shopping mall.
Just as with using the local community to orient people, indoor wayfinding can be used to point out items of interest and educate people – perhaps there is some interesting art on the walls, or there are art deco features to point out. A wayfinding app could tell customers about the artist, theme, history or medium used. Or you can show customers what you are doing locally to help protect the environment, such as pointing out the recycling bins or tree planting you’ve supported.
As an extra benefit of some indoor wayfinding systems—such as the BuzzStreets system that is currently deployed in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London—is that you can gather additional anonymous data about your customers to improve the environment, directions or support other businesses. You can discover where they entered the building, what route they took, how long it took them, whether they missed the café because they took a different route, or which routes are most used.
With all this new data to use, you can ensure that people find you quickly and easily, where you might need to add signage, as well as understand the best placement for things like water coolers, toilets or concession stands.
As you can see, wayfinding is about much more than signs and sat-navs, it’s about helping people feel secure and happy in finding your business with the minimum fuss and maximum pleasure. Customers who arrive at your business feeling calm, happy and confident as a result of your wayfinding support are likely to linger longer, buy more and feel more positively about your brand in general.
Joe Fernandes, 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.