April 26, 2012

Why is wayfinding important for a mall?

Our very own Alan Robertson took to the stage at Rex recently, the key real estate event in Russia. The hot topic was wayfinding in modern malls and why it is so important for owners, retailers and visitors to develop and implement a successful system.

Ultimately, a wayfinding system can make the visitor experience better and therefore increase the time spent in the centre. The benefits of this are clear, if a visitor spends more time in a centre, they will also spend more money. Traffic can also be directed into areas of low footfall, exterior signage can attract passing trade and a better experience means a return visit is more likely.

Nowadays wayfinding isn’t just about directing people to where they parked their car, it’s about the whole retail journey. With the development of technology, digital elements are becoming more and more commonplace; from touchscreen kiosks to iPhone apps. Whilst these may seem like an unnecessary and frivolous expense, the revenue generated from retailer participation and advertising can make them a very lucrative asset management tool indeed.

When we are brought in to develop a new signage system for a mall, we firstly carry out an audit of the site and current signage to see where the current problems are. Many of these are the same across different malls, from there being too many signs, signs in the wrong places or information on signs too small. This first stage of work is critical to the success of the final system, as we establish the types of signs to be implemented and where they will be placed. This involves looking at the user journeys and how visitors move around the centre.

We then move onto the design phases and look at graphic elements such as typography, arrowing, pictograms and mapping. The main problem we encounter on existing malls is that the maps are not oriented to the user as they are looking at them. This practice should be applied to maps throughout the centre; those on signs, touchscreens, the website and printed directories.

Examples of heads up mapping on directory and touchscreen interface

The product design is also developed here; we focus on the form, function and materials in the signs. If digital is going to be included, we ensure that all elements are consistent and look like they are a part of the same system.

The next stage is where we prepare all files and information to hand over to the signage manufacturer. We develop detailed drawings and produce specifications and visual renderings of all sign types. A schedule outlining each sign type, quantities, locations and content will be finalised, as well as artwork guidelines, so the contractor can implement the full system according to our approved solution. We can also manage the tender process or support you as you do so. This is true of the implementation phase too; as we can visit the factory during manufacture and site during installation to ensure quality levels are consistently high.

It’s important to remember that although the initial outgoings of implementing a good wayfinding systems may seem high, it is a real investment that forms part of a better performing centre. Of course, it should tie in with the mall’s brand and interiors so that the entire space fits seamlessly together. At Air, we believe this ‘total design package’ of working on the brand, communications, signage, interiors and digital aspects is the best way to develop a consistently brand experience for users; one that they can identify before they arrive at the mall through public realm and online marketing, enjoy through an easy and comfortable visitor journey and engage with using technology throughout and after their visit.

After all, if people are using their leisure time to shop in your mall, you want to create the best experience possible for them. If you don’t, they won’t come back. Our aim is to make the leisure experience for the general public as good as it can be. That’s how we deliver value to asset owners, operators and managers. Our goal is to up the game and make the destination more productive, for the benefit of you and your customers.