Designing a connected environment

Designing a connected venue environment

Most existing venues and precincts have been designed and operated for a single purpose. When measured against this purpose, they are generally successful, but this success is the result of rigid rules around the purpose of the venue. The days of building venues for a single purpose, however, are now behind us. To ensure revenue meets the high cost of building and maintaining venues, they must be able to cater to different kinds of events and be open every single day. The challenge then is providing a connected venue environment for fans that keeps them informed and engaged – no matter what kind of event is taking place.

Where does this leave us?

There are two options: With an existing stadium, redeveloping or rebuilding the precinct is required to adapt it for mixed uses and more flexible functionality. When the “bones” of an existing venue are good, retro-fitting the environment might take place to increase the flexibility. Either way, creating a user-friendly and connected environment for fans is built upon an understanding the environment, the people that use the space and the people that operate the space. By measuring and recording this information, concepts can be tested and validated, insights can be gleaned and a solution can be reached. We call this process the Environmental eXperience Labs (eX-Labs). It’s a critical phase in providing a connected venue environment because planning allows us factor in the modern complexities of venue precincts that operate 365 days a year. The traditional, organic experience won’t cut it when there’s so many different kinds of events, fans and stakeholders, and so much time pressure from day to day for the operators of the venue precinct.

Starting out

At PAM, the eX-Labs process is employed to gather information about the precinct, learn about the way the precinct is used and then design a navigation solution that ensures that all performance goals are met. Both qualitative and quantitative data are captured for both the customer experience and the operational experience. The methodology dictates that an improved customer experience is measured against a reduced operational expenditure. This creates true value in any given environment, for all stakeholders.

“The most important thing for us is making sure we understand the lay of the land. We need to understand where the environment works well and where it needs some help”, according to Steve Plummer, PAM’s Wayfinding Specialist. “It’s important that we consider every eventuality, from a quiet Wednesday in Summer, right through to the Superbowl or the Olympic Opening Ceremony. We might have to provide a safe, comfortable experience to over 100,000 people in an afternoon, so planning must be careful and considered.”

To make this kind of analysis, PAM works with precinct owners to gather the crowd flow metrics available, and supplement that with additional research. This will be done in a number of ways, from pedestrian flow counters through to interviews with staff and visitors. “It’s obviously important to have the empirical data, but the staff and regular visitors have the best feel for an environment – they live it,” Steve says. “We’re really focused on interviewing a range of stakeholders to understand the needs of the users of the environment AND the operators – it’s no use having an easy-to-navigate precinct if it creates and administrative nightmare for the staff. It has to work for everyone, including the CFO”.

The analysis

In unison with interviews and data collection, PAM will audit the property’s existing navigation system, which will include everything from wayfinding signage right through to any legacy apps or digital signage in place. PAM Studio is a system designed to gather information about an existing signage system, made up of thousands or even tens of thousands of signs. By completing the process digitally into a geo-location based system, PAM gathers the location, sign type and messaging content of every existing sign. From there, PAM can analyze the system for existing weaknesses and additionally consider how the network can be strengthened to provide a truly frictionless journey for visitors.

connected Venue Environment Audit

“Many times the existing signage system will be well-designed for its original intended purpose, but the venue or audience has evolved without the wayfinding keeping pace. This leads to interrupted journeys and a poor user experience.”

“When we audit the environment as part of eX-Labs, one of the critical things we’re doing is mapping the space as it is. Then, when we plan and implement new signage, we keep a record of the signage system. We don’t want it to just die again in the next few years,” Steve says.

Along with the audit, data analysis and interviews, PAM is constantly engaging with the owners of the precinct, to understand their goals. This may include the precincts architects, who will have designed a space to not only be great for visitors, but also to maximize revenues. It’s critical to a connected venue environment that navigation coordinates with the precinct design and supplements these efforts.

A flexible, connected venue environment

As eX Labs proceeds, a series of scenarios for visitor experience are developed, and those scenarios are employed to drive the design of every visitor experience touchpoint. Some of these scenarios are large scale (the end of a football game or concert) and require coordination across every single touchpoint – so digital signage, information kiosks, wayfinding touchpoints and the precinct navigation App all sing from the same hymn sheet. With PAM, these Playbooks™ allow the precincts operators to make large scale changes across the precinct. A sign that may have been directing visitors to the stadium gate now becomes a directional sign for the parking lot or restaurant zone.

“Planning key event management for large precincts requires a great deal of experience. Some visitors want to know that they’re going to get away without too much of a challenge, and they’re planning their entire trip around an easy exit with the kids. When we’ve got 80,000 people on the property, many of our visitors want to hang around, enjoys the cafes or have dinner in the precinct, and that’s what we want too! So we have to make it easy for them. Designing Playbooks ensures we’ve got the ability to quickly implement big changes and get everyone where they’re going quickly and safely.”

connected venue environment planning

Once the eX-Labs strategy process is completed, navigation touchpoints can be planned and locked in. Signs can be allocated, laid out and even artwork produced through PAM. By completing this design process online, precinct owners and operators can coordinate and make decisions quickly regarding specific sign locations, to keep the process moving. Once completed and signed off, PAM will produce all the documentation required to move forward, including a cost estimate and floorplan documents required to engage fabricators.

Solution delivery

While signs are fabricated, eX-Labs helps complete the important process of designing personalized experiences. Navigating on a mobile device must be easy and it should cater for the interests of any given visitor at any time. PAM designs digital touchpoints to include information on the best routes to the precinct, where to park, and then lets the visitors plan their day around own personal interests. Events can be selected, and tickets purchased, a dinner reservation made with a movie in the evening – on their phone, all through PAM’s 360 Explorer.

Refining for perfection

At this point, eX-Labs may have completed its initial rollout, but the process is never complete. Steve concludes, “eX-Labs is a collaborative, evidence-driven process that requires refinement over time. We’re constantly looking for efficiencies to make the visitor’s experience better and connected venue environment stronger. We’re always learning more about the property, and we’re always adapting to change as the precinct grows. Along with performance, we’re very conscious that environmental experience is a significant investment. A key part of the ex-Labs process is about keeping the system healthy, up-to-date and maximizing its benefit to everyone. Our clients develop these high-profile, capital intensive precinct projects for the long-haul and we’re laser-focused on making their investment better and better as time goes on.”

With Steve Plummer, Wayfinding Specialist at PAM

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