Indoor navigation and the best ways to implement

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Karolina Antonowicz, Mikołaj Saik
Indoor navigation and the best ways to implement

Everyone of us has probably experienced the situation of leaving a store with empty hands. According to the Retailtouchpoints, nearly 96% of shoppers leave a store without making a purchase at least once in their lifetime. What’s more interesting is that, for 67.3% of them, the main reason for doing so is not being able to find the right product. The secret that can solve this problem is good wayfinding. The research of the LBMA in cooperation with Oriient reveals that revenue can be increased 3-5% by simplifying product searches for shoppers.

The customer journey has to become increasingly smooth

COVID-19 has changed a lot in terms of customer journeys. Customers want to protect themselves against infection at all reasonable costs. They will use all possible security features such as masks and hand sanitizer, but most importantly they want to pass through a shop quickly and efficiently. Time spent in an unknown environment full of strangers is undoubtedly a threat to peoples’ health. Imagine a map in a mobile application that, on the basis of a shopping list, will guide you like a GPS between the shelves of a shop and show you the optimal path to find any product you need. 

This is, as you may already know, called an indoor positioning system (IPS) solution. It is a piece of software or a network of devices used to locate people or objects in places where GPS and other satellite based systems fail or are less precise. Such a solution is already on the market and can be delivered in several different ways, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

An element of Omnichannel experience

COVID-19 has also improved the innovativeness of the market. Shoppers are more and more open to the omnichannel experience provided by e-commerce platforms and mobile applications. Indoor navigation in an application can be the key to many other technologies, such as Augmented Reality or Marketing Automation. How so? AR, in the form of arrows pointing through rooms, can be superimposed on an image seen through the camera on a phone. What's more, extra information about nearby shops or products can also appear on our screens. 

Source: Techcrunch

An interesting form of using a combination of indoor navigation with other technologies is marketing communication triggered by user location. Geofencing and IPS collect information about a customer who is approaching a given point in a shop or mall. The system dealing with marketing automation processes this event in such a way that the customer simultaneously receives marketing communication about offers related to a given store or product.  This communication does not only have to take place within an application or via a push notification either. It can also be sent as an e-mail, SMS or even a message on a popular communicator. According to Orient's research, based on real pilots of the technology, proximity notifications based on shopper location lead to conversion uplift of up to 400%, which translates into increased revenue of 2-5%.

Finally it is worth mentioning that an omnichannel experience, including product search, navigation and other technologies like AR or MA, drives an  80% higher rate of incremental store visits and a resultant increase in income. 

Analytics and traffic redirecting

However, geofencing does not only affect the purchasing experience of customers. Together with related technological aspects, such as traffic flow meters or input and output sensors, IPS can provide the space owner with key information such as:

  • Movement patterns

  • Places overloaded in terms of movement and not reached by customers

  • Which products are most popular, and how this interest translates into conversion

  • How to optimally distribute products in the shop so that they bring the greatest profit

Oriient - technology based on Earth’s magnetic field

Oriient is a special product when it comes to indoor navigation. They boast that their solution, one of just a few on the market, does not require any additional equipment to be engaged and installed in mapped locations. Instead only a user's smartphone is required to use the software. The solution is distributed in a piece of software as a service model.  The implementation of Oriient technology only requires connecting their software to existing systems with SDK and uploading properly marked interior maps. This allows a ROI to be realised from day one of implementation. It is interesting to note that despite a lack of additional infrastructure installed in these spaces, the technology can determine the position of a user to an accuracy of 1 meter. This is due to an excellent use of equipment available in most existing smartphones on the market. Magnetic sensors in these devices are used to sense a magnetic fingerprint, build maps and to navigate. This is how Earth’s magnetic field can help you to find your favourite beer in a store. 

Oriient also allows for good optimisation of shopping paths. By entering a shopping list in the application, the software selects the shortest and most efficient route through a store. This function is particularly useful in the case of large-area shops, shopping malls or airports. Additionally, as you can see in the third graphic above, Oriient provides an opportunity to send triggered user location push notifications that inform about current promotions and special offers. More information about Oriient technology can be found in this video.

Here is a good place to announce that Oriient has become an official partner of Future Mind, which means that whenever you may be interested in implementing such a solution, just let us know and we will guide You. 

How to connect lighting and navigation systems

A completely different approach is presented by Signify, a company that is associated with the global lighting brand Philips. Their IoT - Interact Retail technology is based on Visible Light Communication (VLC). A unique identification code is sent to customers' smartphone cameras through LED luminaires, which allows them to determine the location of the device and to mark the way to a desired product. Lighting in combination with internal navigation and data analysis creates one of the most precise indoor location systems on the market. Through the application, customers can find the location of products in the store to an accuracy of 30 cm. Additionally, they can receive information about promotions for a selected assortment that is located in close proximity to themselves. This certainly makes it the most accurate system of the type discussed in this article.Above all, it does not require additional hardware apart from lighting, which is already necessary in retail. 

Using this system, the retailer has access to information about a customer's shopping path and thus can check how changes in store arrangement, assortment, lighting or marketing campaigns affect customer traffic. This technology seems to be most effective in large scale shops such as Castorama, where the first pilot of the product was implemented in Poland. 

Beacon-based navigation 

Beacons were one of the first innovations to be used for indoor navigation. They are low-power (sometimes they can last a year without recharging or replacing the battery) devices that are used to connect and transmit information between themselves and other devices on the network. They are usually based on bluetooth technology. When used for indoor navigation, they can detect a smartphone to an accuracy of 2-3 meters. For the latest devices this accuracy has been improved to 1 meter. In the case of retail, however, their accuracy is sometimes insufficient, as 2 meters is the typical distance between aisles. There are certainly many more accurate technologies, but due to its simplicity and reasonable price, shops are often adjusted for beacon-based navigation. It is worth noting, however, that the larger the mapped surface area, the more devices are needed to achieve the required accuracy of a location. Certainly the development of this technology will make the systems even more accurate. For beacons it is easy to make an aperture, which will have potential use in MA among others. Currently beacons are used outside of retail in many other industries such as the proptechairports, hospitals, or hotels and resorts.

Retail is not the only use case

Retail is only one of many use cases for indoor navigation technology. The number of applications, due to the fact that standard GPS does not work or is extremely inaccurate inside buildings, is enormous. Oriient presents a whole range of applications for its technology: airports, universities, libraries, hotels and resorts, office buildings or storage spaces, just to name a few.  In each of these locations, indoor navigation can help you not only to find your way to a particular location, but also to report problems, shortages of goods, and the location of employees or equipment. You can hear more about it in this video.

Beacons also have a wide range of applications, especially in industry or proptech. They allow you to supervise operation of the production line in real time to optimise the use and transport of resources from the warehouse, for example. Beacons can also help you to quickly find goods, machines or employees, etc. A good example of a company using locators or data receivers is Indoorway, which focuses on the automotive and household appliance industries, among others.

Indoor navigation is an important step towards an innovative omnichannel customer and employee experience. It will certainly be gaining in popularity in the coming years, due to the diversity of use cases and the widespread trend of optimizing the use of resources. And here we are talking about our most important resource - time. 

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Karolina Antonowicz

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Mikołaj Saik

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