One of mankind’s earliest wayfinding methods was following stars – and more recently, satellites have provided navigation information to our phones. Today, digital indoor wayfinding apps are being developed to help people reach not just the entrance to a store, but the department or even shelf they want, writes Joe Fernandes, founder and CEO of navigation platform BuzzStreets  …

Wayfinding is an important aspect of running a business – and here are three ways it can help boost yours: 

1. Think basics

Many businesses miss key details. Clear signage outside your business is obvious – but what about beyond your front door? By making it clear and obvious to your customers that they are nearby, you reduce the risk of them becoming lost. 

Finding a place of business quickly and easily creates a positive feeling of support and professionalism. Customers feel that they can rely on you to show them the way – it is the beginning of building trust. Trusted companies are more popular, and they do more business.

On your website, Facebook page or in a pinned Tweet (perhaps a thread), include a few directions about where people can park, which entrance to go through, as well as any details that might let them know they’ve reached the right place. You may even consider including photos to help reassure customers that they’ve gone the right way, since many people are visual learners.

But don’t assume that everyone will be driving. Provide details of bus routes, stops to get off at, and the frequency of buses and trains.

2. Think community

Supporting local businesses is important to many people, and you can use your wayfinding to highlight how connected you are to your local community – perhaps pointing out other local businesses or points of interest. This shows that you are integrated within and supportive of your community.

You could include images of the local pub or school on the corner, to let people know that they are close. These visual reminders are both useful and place your business within a wider community that will help customers feel secure, and that they are dealing with a knowledgeable, friendly brand.

Supporting other (non-competitive) businesses is another way of being helpful while showing that you champion your community. Tell them where the best place to get a coffee is, or where your staff tend to get the best lunchtime snacks. If there are any interesting points along the way, you could tell people a little about the history – be connected, friendly and informative.

3. Think indoors

Wayfinding should not stop at your front door. Indoor wayfinding is especially important if you are situated within a shopping centre or are a concession within a larger store.

Using an indoor wayfinding system helps people find your business within these larger, more complex environments. Systems like BuzzStreets can also provide the best route – the quickest, the least busy or with fewest stairs. You could even point out useful places along the way, such as the nearest toilets or coffee shop inside the shopping mall. 

An extra benefit of some indoor wayfinding systems is that you can gather additional anonymous data about your customers. You can discover where they entered an environment such as a shopping centre, what route they took, how long it took them, whether they missed the cafe because they took a different route, or which routes are most used. 

With this new data, you can ensure that people find you quickly and easily, where you might need to add signage, as well as understand the best placement for things like water coolers, toilets or concession stands.