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All About the Benefits of Digital Wayfinding Signage in Retail

Wayfinding signage in retail is nothing new. But harnessing modern technology means using interactive or digital signage. Find out why and how.

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Signage is obviously a key part of retail wayfinding. Having clear signage directing your customers to the right location in your store; whether that's the fitting rooms, the homewares section or the exit, is an important part of the customer experience.

Increasingly digital signage is being used to replace tired old signage. In fact, there are various reasons why wayfinding signage is increasingly using digital displays.

Whether you're updating your retail spaces, or launching a new retail store, we're going to look at how and why to incorporate digital wayfinding solutions.

What is wayfinding signage?

Wayfinding or directional signage is designed and installed with the primary purpose of guiding people through a physical location. While this can mean simple signs highlighting the menswear section, or guiding visitors to the checkout, it can also incorporate features such as:

  • Maps
  • Directories
  • Location signs
  • Information signs

In fact, there are five different types of common wayfinding or directional signage that you might see in use.

What are the five types of directional signage?

Wayfinding involves more than simply going from A to B or finding something. When considering wayfinding as part of the customer experience, there are commonly five types of directional content.

  1. Orientation: Think of this as the 'You are here' signage. This can be a sign or even a color scheme that identifies your location; or a map or sign highlighting the visitor location within a larger area.
  2. Directional: As you would expect, directional signage is designed to guide visitors to the right location. This can be signs pointing the way, lines on the floor which can be followed, or road style signage explaining distances or approaching junctions.
  3. Informational: This is the kind of signage used to convey critical location specific information. For example opening times, services available or details of emergency exits or elevators, or announcements such as 'closed for special event' or 'next lift in 5 minutes'.
  4. Identification: These are the signs that identify a specific location. These can be signs highlighting specific sections (eg. womens shoes, or the frozen food section), or signs on doors or landmark signage such as historical plaques.
  5. Regulatory: This is often signage that either conveys rules or regulations, or is used for access control and warnings. Examples can include anything from 'No Entry' or 'Smoking Prohibited' signs to details of requirements for access.

While wayfinding signage can be used as standalone elements, there are also often cases when all elements combine. An example of this is interactive wayfinding signage such as touchscreen maps, or integrated apps which help users navigate a larger location such as a shopping mall or airport.

The importance of directional signage in retail

When it comes to shopping and the retail experience, the key is to make it easy for people to find what they want.

Nobody wants to be aimlessly wandering aisles trying to work out which section they're looking for. And clear wayfinding signage can help us feel comfortable and in control within a space.

Easy navigation is a clear benefit of wayfinding signage. But it's also good for our sense of satisfaction or enjoyment when shopping.

Avoiding stress in the retail landscape

If you think of shopping malls, or large department stores, they can be incredibly busy at certain times. This can cause excessive stress for many people, and one study even shows that one in three visitors to retail stores leave abruptly, with some of this linked to stress avoidance behaviors. (study)

To avoid that sensation of being overwhelmed, directional signage can act as a focus point, allowing visitors to scan the landscape and find what they need.

And while some might feel that additional screens can overwhelm the senses, another study into the effects of digital signage in retail shows that these signs can add pleasure to shopping, increase shopping time, reduce perceived waiting times, trigger approach behaviors, and enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and increase sales.

In short, digital signage has a positive effect on customer engagement, which serves to reduce stress and negative experiences.

Interaction gratification

The growth of interactive wayfinding signage has risen in tandem with the rise in personal mobile devices. We've become used to finding what we want, when we want, and retail spaces have needed to keep up with this pace.

This form of interaction within the retail space has also led to something called interaction gratification. Shopping is seen as a pleasant activity and is even done for fun by many groups in social settings.

One study from South Africa looked at how digital wayfinding adds to the hedonic experience, or gratification of shopping.

The study found that shoppers in these larger retail locations highly value the ease of navigation:

"Other shoppers regard resolute wayfinding, showing the most efficient route to certain products, stores, and facilities, as crucial. These types of shoppers strive to complete utilitarian shopping tasks in an efficient way, and therefore the functional value of reaching a shop stocking the required products is likely to be critical. One individual, for example, mentioned that he needed 'clarifying about the amount of time it takes for you to get to the destination that you want to arrive at.'"

Simply put, interactive wayfinding makes shopping easier and more efficient. And this leads to our third point...

Improved revenue

Perhaps the most important factor for any retail business manager is the attendant rise in revenue. Does using digital signage result in a rise in profits?

There have been several studies (admittedly all by other digital signage firms) which say that: Yes! Digital signage increased revenue by 30%, 40% or 60%.

Whatever the actual figure, and regardless of who did the research, giving clear information via highly visible displays gives businesses the most tangible result: increased revenue.

What is interactive wayfinding signage?

When it comes to modern signage, and indeed any form of modern retail experience, the buzzword is interactive. Offering an interactive experience gives you a different element when it comes to connecting with your target audience.

And while interactive wayfinding might mean offering a touchscreen board to access directories or an interactive map, there are many more applications for this technology than you might think.

Self-service stores

Many customers like to self-serve when in store. If you look around many modern stores, coffee shops and even grocery stores, customers will be plugged into headphones, physically in company yet mentally in their own worlds.

Effective in-store wayfinding digital signage helps them to navigate independently.

It also means customers aren’t seeking staff to ask something simple like where the shoe department is. This adds to the feeling of “self-serve” stores, mimicking the online shopping environment where “add to cart” comes without having to interact with anything but the products in the basket.

Consistency between online and physical

An increasingly useful method of using interactive wayfinding signage in-store is to offer access to your online database, or catalog. Services such as click and collect or even AR (augmented reality) can be accessed via in-store signage, making it easy for customers to find what they want.

When so many consumers may choose to shop, or at least research, online prior to entering a physical store, this helps with consistency.

Digital signs are a portal to navigating the store itself, helping to locate products you might want to view or even accessing special offers you found online. This can extend to online member’s clubs, in-store or online events, and even up and coming products which aren’t yet available.

All of which can be served on screen, alongside more practical information such as wayfinding and safety notices.

Better merchandising

Planning a physical space can be hard, but using signage as part of a bigger store design can quickly help flag any problems with the layout.

If your digital floor plan isn’t working, when you can view it on one single screen, the actual floor plan definitely isn’t. With digital signage wayfinding you can easily play around with layouts, areas and even names of different sections. This helps you to quickly get a feel for the entire store experience, which will streamline how you present this to customers later down the line.

More staff opportunities

When you look at any online inbound marketing model, you have four areas of the customer journey. Just like you can see in the diagram from Hubspot, this goes from attracting strangers, right through to closing a sale. Then you have the fourth element, the “delight” aspect.

In retail, much of the emphasis is placed on the first three areas. Yet the fourth, “delight” aspect is what leads to people actually recommending your store. After all, we always remember that one example of really amazing service we received from someone working in a store.

Trouble is, most store staff are overworked and rarely have time to serve basic customer enquiries, let alone go the extra mile. This is where digital signage wayfinding helps. So much staff time is taken up answering questions, directing customers and trying to get sales through the checkpoint. When that part is taken care of by digital signage, staff get to do the extra 10% - the delight aspect which keeps customers happy and coming back for more.

How to use use interactive retail wayfinding signage

First impressions are everything. It’s why many of our customers go down the digital signage route in the first place. When people enter their buildings they want to know where they’re going - fast.

Digital wayfinding helps them unlock access to a designated public area, without having to wait at reception first.

This can mean easy access in place such as:

  • Shopping malls
  • Department stores
  • Supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Trade wholesale suppliers
  • Food markets or hawker centers
  • Pop up retail events
  • Hardware stores
  • Hotels, spas and resorts
  • Offices and co-working spaces

Digital wayfinding software, like the one we support from Wayfinding Pro in our App Store, allows you to set up an interactive map of your space. Using content you already have you can grab maps and turn them into interactive building floor plans and digital wayfinding systems. 

Here are some of the benefits that come with digital wayfinding software solutions.

1. Make navigation easier

We’re a generation of Google Maps users which means that when we need to get somewhere, we’d rather do it alone. When potential employees, visitors or guests arrive at your building, providing them with the tools to navigate independently is a gift.

Digital wayfinding can be added to any screen, kiosk or tablet that you already have positioned in your lobby or corridors. This ensures your visitors can navigate from anywhere and can check in at any time if they need a direction refresh. 

Often, we absorb information better when we read or do it ourselves. Rather than have a staff member direct a visitor, digital wayfinding allows them to take charge of their own journey. This makes navigation easier and that all important first impression more seamless.

2. Save on staff time

What do most of your reception staff spend their time doing? Directing people to the right floor, department or office?

Saving staff time is one of digital signages’ best attributes. If one screen can allow multiple visitors to navigate where they’re going more effectively, your staff are freed up for other more productive activities.

With a software system like Wayfinding Pro you can even integrate photos, URLs and customer loyalty systems. This gives a further incentive for visitors and employees to use your digital screens and to really get to grips with your floorplan.

The more information you can provide, the better equipped your visitors are to get to where they need to be. 

3. Make fast updates to floorplans

With printed maps and static signs, everything becomes out of date quickly. Names are changed, offices are moved and in hospital setups, the path you want patients to take can differ hugely from one week to the next.

A digital wayfinding system like Wayfinding Pro allows for quick updates to your system, such as closing off hallways to reroute traffic, which are displayed in real time. This means your digital screens are always up to date and more importantly, can support you in emergency situations or when you need to react fast.

4. Use multiple platforms

When we think of digital wayfinding we often think of digital screens. But it’s also a system that can be easily deployed to web and mobile platforms.

This lets employees become familiar with floor plans before ever setting foot in the office. It also allows anyone on site or campus, to pull out their phone and have a quick refresh of where they need to be.

We see this as a huge benefit in organizations such as hospitals or schools where it may not be feasible to have a screen in every corridor or hall, just due to sheer size.

Sure it’s nice to have some digital signage screens up, particularly when you can pepper wayfinding with a ton of other interesting content too, but putting the floorplan in everyone’s pocket is a huge benefit. 

5. Install easily

One of the things we love about Wayfinding Pro is that you don’t have to be super technical to create your own wayfinding application. Pre-built or ready made interfaces are available, so if you already have floor plans you can drop these in and create directions without much assistance from your buddies in IT.

Otherwise, an in-house developer or web-friendly colleague can follow the provided guidelines to help create your bespoke wayfinding app.

Once you’ve built your wayfinding app on the Wayfinding Pro website you obtain a URL which you can then add to ScreenCloud Signage using the ‘Add Web Site’ button on your content page. It’s never been more simple to add digital wayfinding to your digital screens right?

Find out more about joining the two together right here.

In summary: Big benefits of your retail signage wayfinding system

  • Familiarity: digital signage wayfinding helps customers to feel familiar with your store, improving wellbeing levels.
  • Self-service: ensuring that clear information is available, helps customers to be self-sufficient.
  • Brand identity: digital signage ties together an online and physical presence and helps breed consistency throughout.
  • Staff freedom: wayfinding frees up staff from helping with directions so they can concentrate on the important stuff.
  • Optimize space usage: An effective wayfinding solution can improve the use of space, which in turn improves the visitor experience and can improve everything from staff satisfaction to traffic flow.

Try ScreenCloud for your wayfinding solution for free today.

 SC Gradient

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