While the COVID-19 pandemic drove consumers online, many people still prefer going into a physical store to complete their purchases, or enjoy an omnichannel approach to shopping.
However, the frustration of finding what they need can cause customers to leave empty-handed. That’s why many brick-and-mortar stores are turning to wayfinding maps and related technology to improve the shopping experience.
Changing Consumer Demands
It’s no secret that consumer demands are changing. Today’s shoppers want to retain the ease of shopping online while being able to easily find products on-site. Here’s what consumers value most:
- Convenience: When someone ventures into a store, they’re typically looking for something, and if they can’t readily find it, they become frustrated and leave without making a purchase. Today’s shopper is accustomed to searching for digital information with the touch of a screen. Interactive wayfinding fits perfectly with these modern trends.
- Omnichannel Shopping: Today, most consumers use multiple channels to shop. They start by reviewing and comparing products online but prefer to finish in a brick-and-mortar store where they can view, touch, and interact with physical products. Wayfinding technology allows them to enjoy a seamless transition from one channel to the next.
To meet these evolving demands, retailers are turning to technology companies (such as Ombori) to offer comprehensive wayfinding solutions.
What is Wayfinder Technology?
Wayfinding refers to digital systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space. Traditionally, shoppers have relied on static maps and aisle signs to navigate spaces and locate items.
Technology, however, has put an interactive spin on wayfinding, enabling shoppers to navigate retail spaces just like they would the outdoors. This technology can be incorporated into interactive kiosks or downloadable apps and is especially useful in large buildings such as shopping malls, supermarkets, and big-box retailers.
What Types of Retail Spaces Can Benefit from Wayfinding Maps?
Retail stores often have long corridors, crowded shelves, and poorly designed layouts that make finding products on the shelves difficult. Here are some spaces where wayfinding technology can assist today’s shoppers:
- Shopping Malls: Large malls with many retail stores can be overwhelming – shoppers get lost and find themselves wandering around in circles while trying to find their desired location. Malls that offer a downloadable wayfinding app can make it simpler for customers to find specific stores. They can also promote upcoming events and promotions, enticing people to check out offers and make additional purchases.
- Supermarkets: Wayfinding maps can be used on a supermarket’s website or within a mobile app to give customers the ability to create shopping lists before arriving at the store and help them find the most efficient route to each product. Likewise, conveniently placed kiosks throughout the store can help customers find their way to a specific department or run price checks.
- Big Box Retailers: Big box retailers such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Home Depot use a variety of wayfinding technologies to improve navigation inside their brick-and-mortar stores. These systems allow customers to find what they need without searching for a store associate and make looking for personal items less awkward.
Benefits of Wayfinding Maps
Retailers of all types can take advantage of wayfinding technology to provide a more modern approach to navigating their space. Here are some of the main benefits of wayfinding maps for both consumers and retailers:
- Reduced Confusion: Interactive wayfinding helps eliminate confusion by providing shoppers with an easy-to-follow map to navigate the space. Essentially, this technology is like having Google Maps for stores. Rather than aimlessly wandering, customers can head straight to their intended destination.
- Streamlined Experience: Finding where to go in a large retail space can be stressful. Using a wayfinding map, shoppers can search at their own pace, making them feel more in control of the experience and, therefore, more relaxed. Furthermore, because digital wayfinding is more efficient, aisles and corridors are less congested.
- Accurate Information: A wayfinding system makes it possible to provide more information to customers in real-time. When integrated with an inventory management system, wayfinding solutions automatically update product data, inventory, and location. This means customers always have access to the most up-to-date information, which can also be provided in multiple languages.
- Increased Satisfaction: Wayfinding technology improves customer satisfaction because it’s often easier to navigate a space using a kiosk or mobile device than finding an employee to ask. In today’s digital world, ease of use and efficiency are paramount for customer satisfaction. In addition, shoppers are more likely to return to a store when they can find their way around without assistance.
- Accessibility and Safety: Today, customer safety is essential. With well-thought-out design and navigation opinions, a wayfinding system helps retailers comply with ADA regulations. Maps make retail spaces more accessible to all shoppers by highlighting where ramps and elevators are located. Systems can also be used to alert shoppers to emergencies and give them directions to the nearest exit or a safe location.
- Easily Modified: Digital wayfinding solutions allow retailers to update maps within seconds. Adding new information to a wayfinding map that is accessible via a mobile device or in-store kiosk is far simpler and more cost-effective than printing out hundreds or thousands of new brochures, maps, posters, or flyers.
- Increased Efficiency: With wayfinding technology, customers no longer have to bother staff for directions or ask if something is in stock. They can self-serve when looking for products, which reduces the workload on store associates. Likewise, wayfinding solutions can help order fulfillment workers increase efficiency by identifying routes with the least amount of walking distance.
- Useful Analytics: On the backend, wayfinding maps collect various data that helps retailers understand how customers move about a store and the types of products they are looking for. This information helps retailers create personalized shopping experiences for customers, predict future demand, and optimize in-store inventory.
- Increased Revenue: Wayfinding technology helps retailers increase revenue. It allows them to strengthen customer loyalty, bringing buyers back to their stores. Retailers can use it to circumvent the in-person sales process by implementing upsells and cross-sells via digital signage. Finally, this technology allows retailers to create additional revenue streams through strategic advertising partnerships with other businesses.
Technology Improving the Efficacy of Wayfinding Maps
Ombori's Wayfinder solution is an interactive, voice-activated map that allows customers to find what they want quickly. They simply tell Ombori Wayfinder what they want and download directions to their mobile device. To make the most of this technology, retailers should consider combining it with the other Ombori solutions:
- Web Kiosk: A web kiosk is an effective place to promote a wayfinding map. Shoppers can access it through QR code scanning without the need to install a mobile app, which is appealing to those who don’t want to share their personal information. Using this technology, shoppers can find any item with just a few clicks, learn about new products, access interactive games, and earn rewards.
- Digital Signage and Playlists: Digital Signage allows retailers to display store maps and navigational instructions. When placed strategically throughout the store, signage helps shoppers save time, reduce stress, and improve their overall experience, as well as learn more about the retailer and its products. Businesses can also create Signage Playlists that allow them to alternate wayfinding maps with promotional materials and upcoming in-store events.
- Store Assistant: Retailers can also integrate Ombori Wayfinder with the Store Assistant, which features Endless Aisle and Guided Selling, to help consumers make informed shopping decisions and increase sales. Shoppers can use guided selling to find products that are best suited for them. If an item is in stock, they can go directly to the shelf and grab it. However, if an item is not in the store, they can use the endless aisle to purchase it online, and either have it shipped or collect it later.
Wayfinding Technology: What’s in Store?
The future of wayfinding goes beyond practicality. Using enhanced technologies, retailers can focus on building rapport with anyone navigating their space. Wayfinding should be an experience: one that efficiently manages staff and effectively engages shoppers. People shouldn’t just know how to get to where they’re going – they should appreciate where they are.
Björn is Chief Experience Officer of Ombori Grid. He spent the early part of his career in the music business before moving into retail design and video production. His passion is for creating unique and memorable retail experiences that excite and delight customers. He spent 6 years at Visual Art in Stockholm before joining Ombori in 2018.