Wayfinding kiosks on a roll: How to cash in

A panel during the Self-Service Innovation Summit drilled down on the benefits of wayfinding kiosks and what to consider when planning these interactive devices.

Wayfinding kiosks have emerged as a popular tool to guide people — both residents and visitors — about local businesses and attractions in public spaces.

The benefits of wayfinding kiosks, along with their operational requirements, were explored by a panel during the recent Self-Service Innovation Summit in Hollywood, Florida, hosted by Networld Media Group. The session was sponsored by friendlyway and the panel was moderated by Elliot Maras, editor of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times.

(The Summit is one of several industry events organized by Networld Media Group, the parent company of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times. The media company’s next event is the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit being held March 20-23, 2023, in Coral Gables, Florida.)

Wayfinding panel members included:

  • Anna Williams, vice president of marketing at Dacra, a Miami-based developer that operates the Miami Design District.
  • Laura McLaughlin, vice president, specialty leasing, Brixmor, which operates retail spaces.
  • Patrick Sherry, managing partner/co-founder at liquid outdoor, an outdoor advertising technology company with a focus on digital signage and digital interactive kiosks.
  • Dmitry Koshkin, managing director at friendlyway USA, an American division of a Germany-based hardware and software manufacturer with a focus on digital signage and wayfinding management, the session sponsor.

Maras provided an overview of wayfinding kiosks, also known as visitor management solutions, which are found both indoors and outdoors and are designed to help users find their way in locations as diverse as shopping malls, tourism centers, recreational centers and (more recently) in various smart city initiatives. Wayfinding kiosks are expanding as interactivity becomes a rising priority for shoppers that are returning to the physical marketplace after pandemic lockdowns.

Anna Williams

A gateway to value-add

Williams noted that after entering wayfinding kiosks in 2018, Dacra’s fleet has grown rapidly in size and popularity with consumers needing help navigating confusing spaces.

McLaughlin, whose company also operates wayfinding kiosks in retail properties, noted the need for wayfinding kiosks to engage customers. “It has to be engaging, it has to be unique,” she said. “And so, implementing the digital kiosks, it gives the benefit of wayfinding, but there’s also the value-add of the advertising component, which is what we saw as another way to leverage this real estate opportunity.”

Koshkin echoed the notion that wayfinding is the gateway to value-add, specifically visitor management. “So, you have an event, you’ve planned your event, you’ve sent invitations, and that person comes to the event and checks in, and then we tailor the map of how to get to certain locations,” he said. “(It’s) pretty much the same with football, with games, with sports, with airports — we can integrate it with any system that creates barcodes or QR codes. And a customer can or a visitor can go closer to a kiosk, scan his barcode, and the system will show him how to navigate to a certain location.”

Laura McLaughlin

Koshkin added that interactive and real-time information are becoming more popular, such as a stadium client that wanted to funnel more traffic to food vendors who were farther from the entrance; showing real-time traffic information to customers at the wayfinding kiosks helped the customers find shorter lines while boosting traffic to those vendors.

Another essential value-add is analytics, McLaughlin said. “That’s something that’s super important to us as a landlord and a developer to figure out. We hear the feedback from our retailers of why it doesn’t work, but now we’re going to be able to track it and analyze it and then put some resources behind asking: ‘Do we need to have the better tenant mix that tries locals outside of the tourists to make this work?’ And that’s something that’s very hard for a developer to do. And when you have the kiosk, it catalogs that for us.”

Of course, above all, said Sherry, who sells advertising on digital kiosks, revenue generation is the biggest reason businesses are falling in love with wayfinding kiosks. “So that’s sort of our main role in the kiosk business is that we sell the advertising or sponsorship on them,” Sherry said, adding that aesthetics are essential, especially for premiere properties. Visitors expect great design and the latest technology, so kiosks should match the aesthetic of the space.

Patrick Sherry

Event promotion is a key here, too: “Because it’s digital, we always give space for the property owner to promote, whether it’s a car show, a fashion show, a concert series — and that message can change instantaneously,” Sherry said, noting the importance of making the content interactive to create an engaging experience for each visitor.

Safety and security

Maras noted that safety and security are becoming hot topics in the industry, and Koshkin concurred.

“Some of our manufacturing clients were very stunned to discover that… your marketing guy can, with one click of a button, distribute a special message — for example, if it’s a fire alarm or something else — so I think this increases security big time,” Koshkin said. “And we also integrate with security access systems. For some of the scenarios which include visitor navigation, we have registration, wayfinding and physical access to the building. So, it all comes together in one bucket, which is nice about software technologies of the modern era.”

Dmitry Koshkin

Public sector leads innovation

Koshkin observed that public sector organizations and governments have proven to be the most progressive and innovative customer category in his experience. “The biggest client of ours is Munich administration,” he explained.

Sherry agreed, pointing out that “smart” cities are becoming more popular. “And that’s tying in lighting and streetlights and traffic lights and all that kind of thing,” he said. “So, municipalities for sure, retail environments and entertainment districts.”

Asked to help define smart cities for the audience, Sherry cited kiosks with “the lights being controlled to go on or off at a certain time to save the city, you know, millions of dollars potentially, in energy costs, but also being able to help visitors that might be coming to a city.”

Do your homework

Resources to learn about wayfinding kiosks abound, with McLaughlin sharing that her firm started by looking at what peers were doing, what worked/didn’t work, and checking out trade shows and live installations for inspiration.

Williams concurred: “We did the same,” she said. “We went to other malls. But the difference between us and other malls is that we’re an outdoor destination. So, if I’m going somewhere that’s an outdoor mall, we need to make sure that the hardware can withstand the elements. Someone recommended us that there was an outdoor installation over in Doral. So, we went to Doral and played with their kiosk.”

Sherry agreed, adding that trade shows were also helpful for his team. “There’s no way around it,” he said. “You just have to do your research, find out who’s using these kiosks and technologies, and test them out yourselves — and then really just do demos and have meetings. It’s a learning process.”

Prioritize user engagement

Williams noted that her team was surprised that the selfie feature was one of the most popular ones on the kiosk.

Sherry agreed. “I will say across the board, the selfie feature is probably our most popular feature, the most used, and that goes into social media integration as well, because a lot of times what people will do is take a selfie from the kiosk. It can be branded with the design district or The Point, Orlando, and then people put that on their Facebook or Instagram.”

ROI, analytics and privacy

McLaughlin said for her company’s properties, ROI for wayfinding kiosks initially came from advertising, but new streams are emerging, such as social media integration. The best part is that, unlike traditional DOOH furniture, kiosks provide real-time data and analytics, which can fuel strategy adjustments.

Information about visitors, Sherry added, is one of the biggest sources of return on investment. “I think a lot of the information being gathered is probably new information… You’re learning more about the visitors to your property, who they are, how long they’re staying there, what functionalities they are using on the kiosk. It’s all new, which is very valuable.”

This led to Maras’s question on protecting consumer privacy.

“Follow all the rules and the laws that are out there,” Sherry said with regard to consumer privacy. His firm anonymizes all data, unless the customer opts in for data collection. Such data includes number of visitors, “their age, household income, all those kinds of things that are super valuable to the retailers,” Sherry said.

Also, and key, Sherry said, his firm geofences its properties. “We can now do attribution studies: say, somebody saw an ad at The Point, Orlando, and then within seven days bought that product. We’re now able to tell that whole story, that whole consumer journey,” he said.

Williams said her system is designed so that her company does not have access to protected information.

Koshkin said it’s vital to have a good legal team to stay in compliance and understand the regulations around privacy, especially because laws vary in different parts of the country: where one state may allow storage of user photos, another may prohibit it.

Gather user feedback

The panelists agreed user feedback is critical. Williams said her team has the advantage of being onsite for easy user feedback. “I mean, (our feedback) is mostly anecdotal, because we will walk outside and just observe people using it. And then we’ll walk up to them and ask them questions about how they felt… (say) they’re using the directory: What was missing? Or, did they find the information easily?”

McLaughlin agreed. “Very similarly, we have a marketing manager onsite, along with a marketing coordinator or general manager, so a lot of it is interacting with our personnel, getting the feedback, like, ‘I was confused about this icon,’ and we are able to explain it to them.”

Planning critical

McLaughlin reiterated that allowing yourself the proper time for project planning and testing, instead of rushing everything, allows you to make and fix the mistakes that will inevitably crop up.

Sherry agreed, noting it is far easier to put in kiosks at the initial development of a property instead of doing it later, which involves digging up sidewalks and other cumbersome tasks. The downside is that this doesn’t serve some revenue models.

“In our model, we pay for the kiosk, we pay for the whole solution, and then we make our revenue back from selling advertising,” he said. Balancing the needs of the property owner with the advertiser is one of his biggest challenges.Building good relationships with property owners is key and leads to new opportunities, Sherry said, like the story of a FIFA World Cup watch party that came from a good relationship with a friendly property owner — creating more experiences for customers is what it’s all about, experiential and integrated marketing campaigns.

(2023, January 18). Daniel Brown – Editor, Networld Media Group. Retrieved from https://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/articles/wayfinding-kiosks-on-a-roll-how-to-cash-in/