Transportation authorities, shopping mall operators and large organisations running corporate campuses; all of them need effective way-guiding solutions. The more users are unfamiliar with the location, the bigger the need is for way-guiding solutions. Way-guiding is not way-finding – the difference is important.

Way-guiding concepts – which can include static signage, digital touchpoints as well as mobile – need to be platform-agnostic. What is most important is to define typical customer journeys, persona and guidelines.

The top five goals of way-guiding installations are:

  • Navigation – fastest way to reach point B
  • Information – facilities or store directories
  • Entertainment – curated content
  • Monetisation – advertising, search results
  • Emergency – evacuation, information

The core requirement for way-guiding systems is up-to-date data sources. Today’s consumers expect real-time updates at any form of way-guiding. The benchmark is Google Maps, which often competes with or complements stationary way-guiding concepts. Mobile-based way-guiding systems are of limited value, as a GPS signal is often not available in larger buildings. But the joy of use, quality of data and frequency of updates of Google Maps and some of its competitors (such as Apple Maps, Baidu Maps (China) or Yandex (Russia)) are what users are used to. And in contrast to stationary solutions, mobile applications are fully personalised.

Most retailers or shopping mall managers don’t like shoppers/facility users checking their phone for on-campus/in-mall navigation as the online competition is only one click away. In addition, today’s customer journeys are extensively orchestrated: not only are they guiding users along the main Points of Interest (PoI), they are also revenue optimised.

Airports are more relaxed, as most users need their phone multiple times to present their mobile boarding pass. On the other hand, airport operators make more money from non-aviation revenues such as retail and parking than from aviation-related charges. That is why UK airports only display the departure gate 20 minutes before boarding, so that passengers spend as much money as possible in the stores and food & beverage facilities instead of waiting at the gate.

Navigation: Selecting the right platform (CMS) is a difficult task, as various vertical markets and businesses use different backend systems. It is essential to determine which features are required, e.g. multi-language support, the number of languages displayed simultaneously, video-based support, 2D/3D way-guiding, integration of existing emergency/building automation/PA systems.

Information: It is essential that the way-guiding system connects to the existing solutions for managing tenants, stores and other building-related assets. Manual input of data is not recommended, as it is prone to typos, information becoming outdated etc.

Entertainment: Many way-guiding systems double as storytelling platforms. Marketing campaigns, social media feeds etc are displayed while the systems are not in use. The challenge is how to communicate with passers-by while still attracting users for the way-guiding application.

Monetisation: It is very tempting to recoup some of the investment with paid-for advertising or, in larger venues, with paid-for search results. Especially here, projects often encounter a conflict of interest: users expect plain information, while the network owner want to monetise. It is highly recommended to display unbiased and not advertisement-ranked information. Digital out of Home and Advertising should be displayed on separate screens.

Emergency: The most recently deployed way-guiding systems in larger buildings integrate emergency features. In the event of an emergency, each screen shows the closest emergency exit, and speakers are activated to support evacuation in smoked-filled or dark environments. Important locations are sometimes fitted with a UPS, to guarantee operation in the event of power outages.

Topics often neglected are accessibility for people with physical or visual impairments, and also cultural and generational differences. While accessibility (height of touchscreens, variable on-screen menus, sound, braille buttons) is mostly regulated by local laws, this is not the case with cultural and generational differences.

Older generations often don’t feel comfortable with touchscreen navigation, so having a few physical buttons for help, language selection etc increases usage. Displaying search results in the lower part of the screen, covered by the user, is widely preferred in many regions. Users expect a certain degree of privacy at public digital touchpoints. That is also one of the main reasons that voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri) lack acceptance at interactive digital signage and kiosk terminals. Users are afraid of voice feedback and the potential sensitivity of the information.

Learn more about interactive digital signage, way-guiding concepts and the latest trends in digital signage at DSS Europe 2019. Get your ticket here