March 16, 2023
Since the very first shopping mall opened its doors, visitors have struggled with navigation. Long hallways and lacking signage frequently turn what should be a pleasurable shopping outing into an unsatisfying slog. Luckily, the indoor navigation system is here to help. This solution makes it easy for customers to traverse a mall or other large retail location quickly and smoothly, using positioning technology and detailed mapping to improve their shopping experience and make them more likely to return in the future. It can also empower business owners with a wealth of customer traffic data to inform space design and advertising placement.
Here’s what you need to know about the technology, from how it works to how it can benefit your business.
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What is an indoor navigation system, and how does it work?
What benefits does an indoor navigation system provide?
An indoor navigation system uses a detailed spatial map to offer customers intuitive directions. It often works in tandem with an indoor positioning system.
Global positioning systems, or GPS, use satellite signals to find users’ positions and track their movement. It’s a great system, but it rarely works inside large buildings such as shopping malls. Instead, these establishments can use indoor positioning to find and track user locations. WiFi, Bluetooth, and augmented reality are three of the most common forms of indoor positioning technology, and each has benefits and drawbacks.
Bluetooth tracking requires constructing and maintaining new infrastructure, usually in the form of Bluetooth beacons. These beacons can transmit a signal up to 30 meters and determine positioning within 3-4 meters. The beacons are relatively inexpensive, and their battery lives range from 2 to 10 years without replacement, but they still represent an added expense. Additionally, buildings with lots of WiFi signals, metal construction, and visitors may experience interference that affects positioning accuracy. Plus, the larger your building, the greater number of beacons you’ll need to cover the total shopping area.
WiFi positioning uses pre-existing infrastructure, making it easy to implement. It offers a range of 150 meters, with an estimated positioning accuracy of 5-15 meters. The system works by measuring the response time between a device on the network — typically the customer’s phone or tablet — and the nearest WiFi access point. Increasing the number of access points for your network can increase the precision of the positioning.
Augmented reality can work in tandem with either of these positioning methods, but it can also function on its own. AR positioning works by turning the view of an object seen through a mobile device’s camera into a visual marker. The camera's position relative to the photographed object tells the system exactly where the user is standing. It can then map the path from the user to any chosen destination where a visual marker has previously been created.
The main hurdle with AR navigation is in defining which objects can serve as visual markers. Some systems use QR code-like markers on the floor, but those aren't visually appealing. Others require manually setting environmental features such as signs as visual markers, which has no infrastructure or aesthetic cost but takes time and limits functionality. That's why Resonai's platform Vera creates a full digital twin of your facility, including all the objects contained within. Vera makes every object in the building into a visual marker using powerful semantic recognition, allowing for seamless positioning and navigation.
Whichever method of indoor positioning you use will contribute to your indoor navigation system. The addition of a detailed spatial map of your facility allows your navigation system to calculate the most efficient route from any point to another, producing turn-by-turn directions and real-time feedback. Users can access this indoor navigation system through an app or via the web, where they’ll see the map update as they walk around. Indoor positioning tracks their location, and indoor navigation ensures they know where they are and how to get where they’re going.
Taking a broader view, augmented reality offerings such as indoor navigation systems and other interactive elements can drive foot traffic and increase customer satisfaction. Read our guide to the new digital infrastructure for malls and retail properties to learn more.
The benefits of indoor navigation begin with the customer experience. There are few things more frustrating for shoppers than being unable to find the item, let alone the store, for which they’re searching. Physical maps placed around the store or mall can help, but these only help customers in certain areas and can be costly to update.
This is where an indoor navigation system comes in handy. With such a system in place, customers on the WiFi network your business provides can refer to a real-time map at any moment for specific and easy-to-follow directions. That means customers can come into the space, find what they need without trouble, and move on with their shopping. They can even be served promotions based on the stores they’re passing or those they’re trying to reach, and personalized ads about related stores elsewhere in the facility. That’s crucial, as 44% of shoppers say they’ll take their business elsewhere without a personalized experience. Plus, the time they save using the navigation system can easily translate into more stores visited and more purchases made. Such a smooth shopping experience leaves a lasting impression on customers, making them more likely to return.
An indoor navigation system also presents myriad possibilities for data collection, especially with regard to customer traffic patterns. As more and more shoppers use the technology, you’ll be able to use their shopping behaviors to generate maps that show typical paths through your facility, areas of high shopper volume, traffic concerns, and more. You can even see where shoppers most often stop to check for directions. Equipped with this data, you can optimize your business in a variety of ways: High-traffic areas can be streamlined through interior design, relieving congestion. They can also become valuable advertising real estate. Stores can use the same insight to improve their layouts, reaping the benefits of optimized store design.
In addition to its standalone merits, implementing indoor navigation is an easy onramp for augmented reality (AR) technology in retail, which 70% of shoppers say is a draw for more frequent visits. That’s to say nothing of exciting AR activations that draw in customers, or the virtual advertising space unlocked by the technology.
Our smart building platform Vera makes it easy to create a spatial map of your location, implement indoor navigation, and start refining your use of physical and virtual space. Are you ready to learn more? Get in touch with Resonai today and set up a free demonstration.
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