Wayfinding 104: Beyond Navigation

Wayfinding 104: Beyond Navigation

In our earlier articles in this wayfinding series, we covered how wayfinding can create a sense of place and serve as a tourism ambassadorhow to continue that storytelling using infrastructure and harnessing the power of mapping technology.

At its core, wayfinding is about user experiences. Technology has become so portable. It’s time to consider how destination marketers can bring more usable information to their guests where they are, and when they want and need it. Here are a few things to consider doing to assist visitors outside of the visitor center.

Utilize Interactive Kiosks as Pop-Up Virtual Visitor Centers

Delivering rich and ever-changing content on maps makes an investment in interactive kiosks one possible option for creating seamless visitor experiences. Touch screen technology can not only deliver directions to a theater or concert venue, but also deliver showtimes, upcoming events and make it easy to book tickets. With the growing popularity of pop-up shops, food truck events and local festivals, promoting these sought-after tourist magnets, on the fly and with directions, is marketing gold. Consider placing kiosks in heavily visited areas or temporarily in places that will have high traffic for specific events. Develop your kiosk to act as a virtual concierge and extend your resources to visitors outside of the welcome center.

Voice technology is here and growing rapidly. It’s time to explore how you can begin to use it.

A Forbes’ writer recently reported, “…brands need to make sure they are providing value through voice technology consumer touch points…” Conversational interfaces like Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are already becoming part of everyday life for many people — especially Millennials. How the travel industry harnesses this technology to create more graceful responses to queries online and at kiosks, as well as how these interactions shape and inform the trip planning process, is only in its infancy.
Taking baby steps in voice is a worth-while strategy to start becoming familiar with the intersection of interactive technology, voice technology and artificial intelligence (AI). This combination of technologies will help to remove communication barriers with multi-language features and ADA compliant designs. Imagine a voice-enabled kiosk that could respond to a question and then provide directions to a French speaking visitor in their native tongue. At that point, it’s not hard to see the importance of this technology as a method of effective wayfinding. And when it is successful at this level, it will help visitors feel even more at home and lead to a better trip, recommendations of your destination to peers and potentially to return visits.

You actually don’t have to look far into the tourism and travel ecosystem and you’ll find the hotel industry and its foray into the adoption of voice technology services. According to this Skift article and Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality program, voice technology in hotel rooms is a helpful assistant for hotel staff, is available for the guest 24/7 and is even beginning to ease the process of assisting guests with their needs outside the hotel.

As the voice-based Internet of Things continues to become more widespread, developers are writing Alexa Skills and comparable data-driven Human Interface devices for a variety of industries. At its simplest, interacting with Siri and Alexa is comparable to using the power of web search engines. You, as marketer of your destination and curator of the visitor experience, understand what tourists are looking for and need to make sure the data is in place to provide appropriate answers to visitor questions. And to work with your stakeholders to educate them on the importance of keeping their online presence up to date. Accurate data is one of the most important keys to your collective success.

Chatbots are being built with the traveler in mind.

Chatbots can provide visitors with one-stop, on-demand answers. From functions such as reservation management, customer care, travel planning, and expense management, developers are building technology with very specific abilities that can be aligned with visitors’ needs. Your understanding of what people staying in your community want to do and how best to get them there is important, and your standing as a trusted source of information can be enhanced through the use of a good chatbot. For example, a bot for Uber, Marsbot from Foursquare, and Assist allow travelers to experience cities through local reviews and recommendations. These chatbots take their content from nearby locations and provide options as if a traveler was a resident. There are many options for use of chatbots on your website — Facebook Messenger, SMS and Slack are just a few avenues to consider. It can be a notification platform or a comfortable way to share someone’s location. As with all your methods of communication, chatbot conversation and tone should support your brand. Even artificial intelligence should seem human.

Employ Geofencing to Assist Your Wayfinding Efforts

Geofencing is defined as “a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area.” A geofence can be dynamically generated, as in a radius around a store or a specific geographic location, or it can be a predefined set of boundaries, like district or neighborhood boundaries. One example of geofencing involves a location-aware device of a user, like a mobile phone, entering or exiting a defined perimeter or virtually fenced in area. This activity triggers communications cues that can be designed to be delivered to that user, as well as important data back to the geofence operator.

One of the most widely known uses for geofencing comes in the form of popular social networking apps. Location-based filters, stickers and other shareable content are all made possible through geofencing. SnapChat — and recently released SnapMap — have capitalized on the desire to share activities based on location. Many communities and neighborhoods have designed filters that mark user photos with their promoted event. There’s an Around Me tab in Stories where geofencing enables users to see stories posted in the area fenced. There’s also Geo Story, where Snapchatters can add to stories within geofenced areas. Stakeholders in areas frequently hosting younger visitors should consider strategically utilizing this tool.

Sponsored interaction has been moderate, but user-generated imagery and stories can build positive buzz for your destination. And much like light pole banners, location-based filters, stickers and other shareable content can bring brand recognition to your area.

As the lead marketer for your community, geofencing points of interest, districts and event venues could be a strategy for engaging groups at conventions and meetings, as well as leisure travelers in market. Geolocation communication could also be great for cross-promoting nearby activities or delivering information about an upcoming event in a venue.

The beauty of technology-assisted wayfinding is, that in addition to directing visitors to desired locations, it has the ability to reveal all your community has to offer on the journey, on-demand.

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