For most of the history of commercial flight, airports have been, at best, a way-station on travelers’ journeys, be they for tropical vacations or business travel. However, over the last 20 years, airports have been slowly making the transition from a mere passthrough to a destination in and of themselves. The last five years in particular have seen major change come to airports the world over. Airport executives have realized that they have a captive audience who is more than likely to have a level of affluence exceeding the average. For example, a 2001 NHTS study showed that American business travelers’ household income was well above the country’s average, and 27% were over 100K. While these passengers generally have more disposable income to spend, they are also quite discerning, having often experienced and seen more of the world.
Because of these circumstances, it stands to reason that airports would want to find ways to make their facilities more luxurious, both in terms of services offered (premium spas, restaurants) and products available for purchase (high-end designer stores), but also in creating a more personalized environment and experience for travelers. The way they have accomplished the latter is primarily via the utilization of digital signage and interactive kiosks. This has become the era of mobile check-in, consumer-initiated wayfinding and touch screen iPads for ordering from restaurants while simply relaxing at the gate.
How exactly has airport wayfinding changed in recent years? For one, gone are the days of simple screens detailing arrivals and departures and nothing else. While the information is still available, the signs themselves have often been replaced with high-definition digital signage, featuring software that allows targeted messaging to be delivered to a given audience. For example, if a large convention is in town, a special welcome message can be programmed into the screens, along with specifics regarding the conventioneers’ hotel location, available amenities, directions, meeting schedules and contact information. This message can be delivered at baggage claim, arrivals and anywhere in between. Area businesses can also get into the act, including transportation companies, local restaurants and attractions that wish to offer specials for these specific travelers.
Interactive wayfinding via touchscreen kiosks is another massive area of growth. Rather than trying to locate airport personnel for information or assistance, passengers can easily find the correct baggage claim carousel, connection gate or directions to different concourses or airport common areas. They can also look up restaurant options and store information to find out what will be available on the way to their next in-airport destination. Some wayfinding kiosks even offer the opportunity to reprint boarding passes, change seats or even entire flights if needed.
Airports are finding out that going the extra mile to ensure a seamless, stress-free customer experience results in higher satisfaction -- something that often translates into greater airport spending on everything from hamburgers to handbags. According to a 2014 SITA/ACI Airport IT survey, 86% of airports said they would be investing in self-service technologies, with that number increasing to 92% by 2017. The same respondents planned to spend $6.8 billion on these types of programs in that time. This area is only expected to grow as new and different opportunities for self-service kiosks, digital signage and interactive wayfinding become available and accessible to travelers around the globe.
What other industries are successfully deploying interactive wayfinding? Follow RedyRef as we continue to explore the future of these technologies over the coming weeks. Already know that you want to take the plunge into high-tech wayfinding kiosks and digital signage? RedyRef’s experts are available to assist organizations of all sizes; just give us a call at (800) 628-3603 ext 525 or submit a request for proposal online and our team will be with you every step of the way.