In her fourth viewpoint, KSS Associate Director Debbie Power investigates the benefits and considerations of technology and tactility for the future of venues.

COVID has fast tracked the embrace of technology out of necessity during this time. Digital ticketing and cashless venues are now commonplace, with apps also being re-purposed to support the safe return of fans.

The benefits of technology have been widely accepted by guests, as it has been perceived as essential for touchless and ‘safe’ access.  Of course, there are sustainable benefits as well through the removal of physical printed tickets.

Technology has benefits for the venues too, it has been a valuable means for businesses to continue the dialogue and connection with fans during lockdown, continuing brand connectivity and loyalty. But as more of the hospitality processes become automated it might also be beneficial to help the industry through the current staff shortages.

For us as designers some of the considerations are signage and communication, for example Apps that provide the ability to pre-order drinks require clear communication internally within the environment of the collection points for the guest.

At Westview, our latest premium experience for Chelsea FC, the bar can flex, providing pre-order collection points or custom orders, as the service demand changes, and of course this is beneficial for other events. The food service has been designed with designated collection points that can provide the menu from all of the separate food offers, avoiding guests having to queue at multiple locations.

With the increased use of mobile devices though, designers and operators must consider introducing charging points or have an accessible charging strategy. Operators need to ensure there is sufficient network coverage, otherwise the guest experience will be diminished if they are limited to the level of integration they can engage with because of a low battery or dissatisfied when their push notifications only appear as they leave the venue.

Technology is a key move forward and experience enabler; however, we need to ensure that the importance of human touch points is not overlooked and overly replaced with technology, at a detriment to the guest experience.

It is important that personalisation and brand presence are then introduced or maintained in other ways. App ordering for example is a great advancement, but at the right level of experience, at the higher level of hospitality this would be too impersonal and removes the ability to customise the user journey.

Another consideration is QR code use for the menus, the hygiene and environmental benefits are obvious, but it does omit a tactile touch point that can represent your brand. The technology also needs to be thoroughly tested on all platforms and devices to avoid guest frustration and disengagement.

The representation of a brand across the full guest journey and experience needs to be cohesively considered. The physical collateral provides more than just touch points, as we know it is more than just colour and font that represent a brand. Careful consideration should go into the everyday elements such as menus, which have a range of materials styling, from an embossed leather-bound book to a authentic timber clipboard. It is important how the menu feels in your hand, the weight of the paper stock, the subtle engraving, or metallic inlay. The suite of touch points such as table numbers, tickets, gifts, lanyards, should all work in harmony with each other to complement the interior and digital environment, embellish the experience and reinforce your brand.