Traditional, static wayfinding for utilitarian Point A to Point B consumer assistance is still useful today, but digital signage has turned wayfinding solutions into more than simple navigational tools. Today’s tech-savvy consumers are quick to dismiss traditional wayfinding for what it is—primitive but necessary—and modern buildings, brands, and businesses are connecting with their digital audience by complementing physical spaces with digital wayfinding solutions.
Successful digital wayfinding signage creates a single fluid experience that unobtrusively provides personalized assistance, deepens the level of engagement between brand and consumer, and improves the overall customer journey. Digital wayfinding solutions present unique opportunities for architects, interior designers, and brand owners to influence and enhance the customer experience beyond the Point A/Point B aesthetic.
Defining the Customer Experience
A recent Walker study predicts that by the year 2020, the customer experience will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators, which means tomorrow’s connected consumer will demand an enhanced customer experience regardless of the industry, product, service, or social platform.
The increasingly digital nature of the customer journey already attempts to bridge the gap between brand and consumer through new, innovative avenues all the time, from location-based services to interactive communication. Being part of that innovation means understanding the customer experience from kiosk to the destination and beyond. That means stepping outside the traditional purchase funnel/customer journey bubble to gain perspective.
Bryan Mezaros makes a great point in his November 2016 article for the Society for Experimental Graphic Design when he suggests that since the customer journey isn’t linear, the digital experience shouldn’t be either. Mezaros goes on to say that “shopping and discovery is about the journey, and digital [wayfinding] gives us the opportunity to build brand equity along the way.” Defining the modern-day customer experience in a wayfinding context takes into consideration that the customer journey no longer ends when Point A connects to Point B.
Wayfinding directories can evolve beyond navigational tools to become customer service tools, and digital wayfinding signage makes it possible to reach out to, connect with, and accompany consumers to help shape the information gathering process.
The Digital Wayfinding Signage Mantra is Discovery
People no longer want static solutions to directory challenges, whether that be in the design of a retail store or an office building, and digital wayfinding signage is all about discovery.
Incorporating digital wayfinding into a design creates an opportunity to further engage visitors by recommending relevant products, offering interactive assistance, and providing immediate logistical information within a given space.
Additionally, with a phone in every pocket and the internet at our fingertips, wayfinding signage can do its job from a distance. Modern digital signage solutions include applications and software that enhance wayfinding capabilities to let consumers bring the directory, map, or information with you as you shop, work, or travel.
Creating the Space to Connect with the Consumer
When a digital design is introduced to wayfinding, personalization becomes possible. This is especially relevant for the architects and building designers who visualize and create structures meant to connect brands with their audiences.
Directory listings and physical instructions are still necessary information to include in the design, but physical amenities can now be married with digital aesthetics. Form is more about function in a digitally infused space, and architectural designers are incorporating digital wayfinding signage into different facility features to enhance flow and functionality.
- Airports: The terminal is the lifeblood of any major airport, and passengers, as well as personnel, rely on terminal information and how it’s presented. Enhancing the travel experience in both opportunistic and practical design through the use of digital wayfinding signage can breathe life into an uncomfortable airport space. People need to find their gate as well as the amenities inside the airport, but digital wayfinding inclusions like local weather or up-to-date travel information can be invaluable.
- Retail: Digital signage designed into retail settings will help direct customer traffic and better display product offerings, but innovative wayfinding solutions also bring context-specific information to prime locations at opportune times. Flash sales, interactive product information, and store highlights can enhance the shopping experience and increase revenue.
- Restaurants: Menu boards have evolved beyond traditional, static presentation just like wayfinding directories have, and today’s digital menus come with all the bells and whistles you’d expect—interactive display, real-time customization, and even TV. Remember when McDonald’s test launched a dedicated in-store television channel (The McDonald’s Channel) in 2011 to try and connect with customers more directly through their digital signage?
- Office: Corporate directories have come a long way since the on-the-wall display case days, and today’s digital directory design takes full advantage of advanced wayfinding capabilities.
- Hotels: The map and brochure kiosk staple found in many hotels is quickly being replaced by digital signage solutions that do everything the traditional kiosk did and more. In-room features, hotel amenities, eateries located in the immediate area, and entertainment around the city and state can easily be integrated and updated using digital wayfinding signage.
- Schools: The dynamic nature of digital signage presents diverse wayfinding solutions for communication challenges across school campuses. Campuses of all shapes and sizes are a blend of many of the industries listed above—hospitality, dining, corporate—which makes them perfect places for a wide spectrum of digital wayfinding signage solutions.
Weather information, local and international news, emergency alerts, marketing messages, traffic updates, and even social media posts can be displayed alongside digital directories regardless of the building, business, or brand. It’s important to consider digital wayfinding during the design phase when erecting a new building or making alterations to an existing facility because it adds a truly invaluable element to space.
The Cost of Digital Wayfinding Signage is Worth the Investment
Start early and start thinking broadly if you decide digital wayfinding signage solutions are right for your brand or business. The more incorporated digital directories, displays, and design elements can be regarding aesthetic function, the better they can serve your desired target audience.
Digital wayfinding signage is an investment, but it’s one that consistently proves to be good for business when integrated wisely.