The coronavirus pandemic has brought companies in all industries into uncharted territory. Slowing the spread of the virus requires social distancing, quarantine, and lockdowns, which have led to many businesses shuttering their locations for the time being.

Businesses are facing tough times ahead, but they don’t have to take this crisis lying down. Below are some action steps that organizations can take to alleviate the stress that the COVID-19 situation has placed on their businesses.


Stay on top of customer communications

Now, more than ever, it’s important that companies keep in touch with their customers. It’s a must for businesses to send regular updates on what’s going on in the organization, so customers know how they can do business with the company.

Is the business closing its physical locations temporarily? If so, can people still buy online? How can they get their hands on their orders? These are the questions companies should be answering in their customer communications in the coming weeks.

The right approach depends on the organization. Some businesses are doubling down on their ecommerce channels and are sending offers that can be redeemed online. Other businesses are launching CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives to help those severely affected by the pandemic.

It’s essential for companies to craft messaging that truly resonates with their audience. Even if the business is communicating via digital channels, the experience they provide must feel personal, dynamic, and human.

With the right technology, companies can harness the data they already have to craft individualized and timely messaging that customers actually care about. For example, a retailer can use the in-store behavioral data they have about their shoppers to tailor their offers and communications.

Of course, crafting personalized messages requires businesses to have the right data, to begin with.

And this brings us to our next point…


Tighten up existing customer data collection systems

Businesses that don’t have the right customer data should use this period to evaluate their existing systems. How organized are their data-collection processes? Are customer details accessible from one system or does the information live in siloes? More importantly, is the business relying on quality data sources?

In today’s landscape, the most optimal way to get to know customers is by collecting zero-party data. As we mentioned previously, zero-party data refers to information that customers have proactively shared with businesses. Unlike third-party tracking, in which marketers track customers in the background, collecting zero-party data is a collaborative act, and customers are fully aware of what they’re sharing.

Brick-and-mortar retailers — under normal circumstances — have a massive opportunity with zero-party data. Physical locations create an excellent environment to connect deeply with customers and collect their information.
During this pandemic, organizations that have already invested in zero-party data are in a better position to connect with their customers.

That said, businesses that aren’t collecting zero-party data can take this as an opportunity to build systems that would allow them to better understand their customers.

They must identify any shortcomings in their data initiatives and systems, then come up with solutions. They may need to look into new technology providers. Perhaps they migrate their data to a different platform or implement a new integration. Whatever the case, now is a good time to take action. The solutions that companies establish during this time will allow them to hit the ground running when business picks up again.


Come up with new ways to connect with the customer

We are in uncharted territory, and this period calls for innovation. As such, organizations should get creative with how they build their one-to-one relationships with customers.

At this stage, most brand-to-customer interactions will take place digitally (with the exception of retailers that sell essential items such as food, supplies, etc.). Because of this, companies must be more inventive with their online messaging. With more customers spending time on digital channels, it’s critical that businesses come up with initiatives that cut through the noise.

That being said, businesses should also think about how they can connect with customers once the coronavirus pandemic passes. Keeping a close eye on how the COVID-19 situation unfolds is critical, and companies must follow the latest developments so they can plan ahead and kick off strong when customers come back.

Cultivating one-to-one relationships should be a priority now and in the future. And the only way to build those relationships is to have a deep understanding of customers (through things like zero-party data) and by implementing marketing technology that can put that data to good use.


Cloud4Wi is here for you

Whatever the next weeks and months bring, we want you to know that Cloud4Wi has your back. If you’re a brand that wants to create stronger customer relationships, we can advise you on the best course of action at this time.

Our team will be 100% remotely connected and available to assist you with a free consultation to analyze and act on customer data collected in physical locations. This way, you will be able to connect with your customers—even if only digitally—and warmly share your values, as well as your latest and upcoming changes during such a time of crisis with physical locations mostly locked down.

Contact us today, and we’ll be in touch.




Earlier this year, Google made an announcement that sent shockwaves across the digital marketing space: Chrome will end support for third-party cookies.

In its blog post, the search company wrote that it intends to “make third party cookies obsolete” in Chrome. Advertisers will no longer be able to track users online, which means businesses won’t have the ability to serve up targeted ads.

As such, any business that relies on Google and third-party cookies should rethink their strategies and find ways to reach and engage customers directly.


Enter zero-party data

The most effective way to accomplish that is through the use of zero-party data, which refers to data that customers have proactively shared with businesses. Unlike third-party tracking, in which marketers track customers in the background, collecting zero-party data is a collaborative act, and customers are fully aware of what they’re sharing.

When leveraged correctly, zero-party data enables companies to create rich profiles, so they can tailor the experience of their customers.

The act of gathering zero-party data can also build trust between businesses and their customers. Actively involving customers in the data collection process minimizes the “creep” factor that people feel when they’re passively being followed. When companies are upfront about the information they’re gathering, customers will be much more likely to share details about themselves.

When talking about brick-and-mortar companies, they have a massive opportunity with zero party data. Physical locations offer an excellent environment for engaging customers and collecting their information.


How to collect zero-party data

Now that we’ve covered the importance of zero-party data, let’s look at some of the ways that businesses with physical locations can collect it.


Offer convenience

One of the best ways to encourage customers to share their data is to provide convenience. Make their lives easier by offering tools and services that they can use as they interact with businesses.

Consider what Gruppo FS Italiane, an Italian State Railways Group, is doing. The company encourages railway station visitors to share their data by providing convenient services to passengers who log into Gruppo FS Italiane’s WiFi network. Once they’re signed in, guests are able to use navigation tools, digital timetables, and other location-based services to aid their trips.

Providing access to these features not only allows Gruppo FS Italiane to enrich the experience of its passengers, but it enables the company to gather valuable customer data.


Incentivize customers to share their information

Another tactic for collecting zero-party data? Offering incentives. Businesses can create special discounts and offers that customers can redeem after they provide their information.

The mattress retailer PerDormire is a great example of this tactic in action.

The brand launched a WiFi initiative to promote its in-store rewards program and customers were able to sign up through PerDormire’s welcome portal. This initiative allowed the company to collect personal customer data and preferences while remaining compliant with GDPR.


Offer exclusivity

One other idea that businesses could implement is to create unique, exclusive experiences as a means to collect zero-party data.

Certain luxury brands are implementing this quite well. At the Prada Group, sales associates will be notified when a returning shopper walks in so that they can provide better customer attention. This type of specialized services will ultimately help The Prada Group better personalize the experience for their in-store shoppers, which in turn will boost loyalty and build stronger customer relationships.


Zero-party data are the #1 marketing priority

Gone are the days when businesses can get away with silently tracking customers. In an age when privacy concerns are paramount and consumers are savvier than ever, businesses need to be creative with their efforts to get to know their customers.

Focusing on zero-party data enables companies to collect high-quality data ethically. If businesses haven’t done so yet, they have to make zero-party data a marketing priority.

Need help launching your zero-party data initiatives in-store? Cloud4Wi can help. Get in touch to learn about our suite, which has helped companies like The Prada Group, Campari, and Burger King get to know customers better while boosting their brand experiences at the same time.




WiFi analytics may be the most potent, most actionable source of business intelligence to arrive on the scene since computers first began processing visitor demographics. Looking over the shoulder of a location’s free WiFi guest network, WiFi analytics tools turn terabytes of raw WiFi tracking data into powerful decision-making insights.

By leveraging WiFi analytics tools, businesses can get to know their visitors: they can learn who visitors are and how they behave while inside a location.

This up-to-date information can boost business performance by helping managers see how various locations stack up against one another, and discover and implement best practices that can be confidently rolled them out to other sites. With WiFi analytics tools, for example, retailers can optimize merchandise placement, store layout, staffing allocation, or business hours, by embracing retail in-store analytics.


What WiFi analytics can tell managers about visitors

STEP 1: Unearth visitor behaviors

Even if not connected, all WiFi enabled smart devices transmit pings to detect and connect to available WiFi networks. On the other side, access points and/or sensors passively listen to the pings sent by smart devices. This helps in defining the location of the pinging smart devices. Then, raw data collected through the access points and/or sensors are elaborated and turned into WiFi location analytics, that enables businesses to measure foot traffic and analyze visitor behavior.

Used correctly, a WiFi location analytics tool can provide almost real-time answers to questions like how many people visit a location? How many passes but don’t stop? How many are unique visitors? How many have been to the location before? How often do they return? How much time do they spend on the location?

WiFi location analytics can also document how visitors behave inside the location. These answers include where do visitors go? Are they roaming or moving directly from one area inside the location to another? Where do they spend most of their time? What areas capture the most interest? Is there a specific movement pattern that visitors commonly follow?


STEP 2: Discover who visitors are

When visitors sign in to WiFi, businesses can associate a personal digital identity to each WiFi enabled smart device on their network. This way they can collect names, emails and phone numbers, along with additional information like visitor demographics – age, gender and language – and even what devices, browser and operating systems they use.

Then, personal data collected are anonymized and aggregated to provide businesses with WiFi user analytics. For businesses to have a visitor breakdown by gender, age and language would be extremely useful, especially when it comes to running more segmented marketing campaigns. Equipped with this knowledge, businesses can craft strategic messaging that appeals to visitors’ unique preferences.


STEP 3: See how guest WiFi is used

Once connected, visitors start surfing the Internet. Guest WiFi service analytics makes it easy for businesses to monitor how guest WiFi is being used across all their locations.

Guest WiFi service analytics can tell managers how many people visit the business’ splash page, use the network, and what login options are most popular. How many users are new vs. returning during a given period? How many sessions are there? What is the average duration per session? How much upload and download traffic is being used?


WiFi analytics: a continuous flow of information

WiFi analytics collects information whenever visitors are inside the location and logged into the WiFi network. The WiFi analytics package is effectively a magnifying lens that notices visitor behavior and other right-now information in detail. This raw data is transformed into actionable information that businesses act upon to improve both customer satisfaction and brand profits.




Using a smartphone to access the Internet is nothing new, but it was not so long ago that public Internet was pay-by-the-minute or hour. Today, Starbucks has become a nearly universal go-to for free Internet that doesn’t use up a smartphone’s data plan.

In 2018, if a restaurant, retailer, hotel, stadium, transportation hub or even bank doesn’t offer free guest internet, it is losing customers to another venue that does. Worse, the business loses the many powerful marketing opportunities that guest WiFi offers.

Once a customer logs on to guest WiFi, a relationship is born that gives brick-and-mortar companies the same ability to target customers and analyze their behavior that online businesses enjoy.

Businesses that operate both online and in physical locations use WiFi to create a shared experience that allows customers to move between e-commerce and in-person shopping easily. This connection can turn the “liability” of brick-and-mortar to an advantage in customer engagement and sales over online-only businesses.


What is WiFi marketing?

Where many businesses provide free WiFi without a login requirement or hand out passwords – sometimes valid only for specific amounts of time online – wise companies ask for email address, telephone number, and other information to create a unique and device-specific user account.

Gathering social media profiles for login is often possible, but after Facebook’s privacy revelations customers are much less likely to use their Facebook accounts on WiFi networks. Merely asking can be a “turn-off” for some potential users and is unnecessary besides.

Using WiFi-generated information, businesses can effectively target their customers even when they are not logged in to the network, using email, text, and other means. Information collected based on their movement and behavior while using the network provides plentiful opportunities for targeting and retargeting.


How does WiFi marketing work?

WiFi marketing targets specific customers with e-mails, text messages, and push notifications based on their on-site habits, where they visit within a location, demographics, and other metrics. Big data analysis turns the vast amount of information collected into good profiles and actionable information about customers.

Messages can be launched at any time, such as moments after the customer enters or leaves the location. Special promotions can be sent to drive targeted customer traffic whenever desired. Customers can also be asked to complete a satisfaction survey after leaving.
Here are just a few best practices to unleash marketing capabilities over WiFi:


Benefits for businesses

WiFi marketing can dramatically improve the ability of companies to understand and influence their customers. The corporate brand becomes more important and more engaging because companies can communicate more efficiently and more specifically with them as individuals.

Data analysis will answer questions that today are impossible to ask effectively. Businesses can target messages based on a customer’s return history or their behavior when they were last in the location. Tracking customer foot traffic allows exceptional promotions to be sent, based on customers’ most recent interests.

All the demographic and visit history information collected can also become part of the growing CRM system.


Benefits for customers

Customers benefit by receiving messages targeted to their interests and preference. They can be contacted with messages tailored to their habits, and such personalization enhances customer engagement, loyalty, and the importance of corporate brand. Customers develop a more positive feeling for the brand as they receive information personalized for the individual.


Getting started with a WiFi marketing solution

The best and most flexible WiFi marketing solutions ride atop existing WiFi networks and hardware. Using existing access points preserves that investment and also demands a cloud-based approach. When a user logs on to the network, they are directed to a cloud-based splash screen for login and registration.

Cloud-based WiFi marketing solutions are most straightforward to implement, as they are available globally and managed centrally in just one place. They can also be easily integrated with other business and data analysis applications.

Setting up the WiFi marketing solution is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Essential features can be running within days, although most customers implement advanced features – such as customer location tracking within a location – over time. The WiFi marketing solution is a big data application that can work with existing business analytics and management tools.



What is a captive portal?

The term “captive portal” may be new to many marketers, yet the experience of using one is probably familiar to them. In the WiFi world, a captive portal is a custom splash screen that the visitor of a physical location is obliged to view and interact with in order to access the Internet over WiFi. Captive portals are usually used by restaurants, stores, transportation hubs, hotels, and other locations that offer free WiFi services.


How a captive portal works

When a visitor physically enters a location, the smartphone connects to the SSID of the guest WiFi network and the captive portal is automatically displayed by the smartphone’s browser. The captive portal requests the visitor to provide personal information to access the WiFi service. If the network already knows the smartphone, the captive portal might be bypassed. The captive portal can also be displayed when the visitor first opens any page using the WiFi network, instead of when the WiFi connection is first opened.

The personal information gathered, in compliance with local regulations, depends on the WiFi login option selected by the visitor and may include traditional demographics–such as name, email, phone number, age, and gender–but also the visitor’s preferences.

In this way, captive portals turn anonymous visitors to physical locations into real people that businesses know by name and can reach by text messages and emails – when they collect the opt-in permission.


Why captive portals are the marketer’s best friend

Not all marketers know why captive portals should be exciting to them.

All marketers are familiar with “landing pages” on a website. Many believe that all web pages are landing pages and it is true that a website visitor can “land” on any page. But, a true landing page is a destination where marketers direct visitors to capture their information to be used in marketing programs.

Captive portals give marketers a place to request, even demand, visitor information and perhaps offer a discount or promotion in exchange for visitor information and consent. That makes captive portals “landing pages” in the sense that a landing page must include a form for gathering visitor information.

That’s why captive portals can be considered the landing pages of a business’s physical locations. Captive portals are often called the WiFi landing page, further cementing the relationship between the online and physical worlds.


How to promote the WiFi landing page

For marketers, it’s a landing page best practice to offer visitors something of value in exchange for their information and consent. The offer, which might include a 10 percent discount on some item, or even the entire shopping trip, can be brought up in the browser’s screen or sent as a URL via messaging. When the visitor goes to a register, clicking on the link could bring up a UPC code–perhaps personalized for the shopper–that triggers the discount as part of the transaction.

A similar approach should be used with WiFi landing pages. Businesses should reward visitors when they access WiFi and provide the requested information. There are many types of offers that can be made, including loyalty programs, free products, refer-a-friend deals, requests for “likes” and references, virtually anything can encourage customer engagement with the business via the WiFi network.


Businesses should already have a WiFi landing page

Though the term is new to many, captive portals are not a new concept. Networks have used these landing pages for decades. The social login is one example.

What’s new is how marketers can use WiFi landing pages to get to know on-site visitors. Regardless of how the WiFi landing page is described, it is a powerful tool for turning anonymous visitors into engaged and loyal customers, and can offer substantial benefits when used by savvy marketers.



The most important privacy protections in the history of computing come into effect on May 25. Companies that have not already taken steps to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are behind the curve.

But there are many working in companies that must be GDPR-compliant but have not been touched personally during the 2-year run-up to this month’s compliance deadline. Here we will offer a short backgrounder on the new rules – which can seem complicated – and emphasize the need for everyone who touches customer data to be aware of GDPR and their responsibilities.

Cloud4Wi is proud to be fully compliant with the GDPR. We’ve implemented various changes to make sure that we, Cloud4Wi, and our customers have everything in place to comply with GDPR.


What is GDPR? Why does it matter?

GDPR is the first major rewrite of Europe’s privacy regulations since the mid-1990’s. No law is perfect and will be some time before the details shake out, especially how regulators will interpret and enforce specific provisions. Violators face potentially huge penalties – estimated to be up to 79 times larger than current sanctions.

Under the GDPR, small offenses will carry a fine of up to £10m or 2% of a firm’s global turnover, whichever is larger. More serious violations will result in fines up to £20m or 4% of a firm’s global turnover, again depending on which is more substantial.

Those potentially eye-watering (and company-ending) fines are one reason companies have focused so closely upon this month’s deadline, though it is as yet unclear how aggressively EU authorities will prosecute GDPR violations.

Further, every organization that collects data from or about European citizens must be GDPR-compliant, regardless of their headquarters location or where the data is stored. That is why many international organizations are accepting GDPR is a global requirement or segregating non-European customer data from that collected or stored within the EU.


GDPR will be everywhere

Recent privacy breaches, notably those at Equifax and Cambridge Analytica, but including many smaller incidents, have the U.S. looking seriously at changing its data privacy laws. The GDPR is often mentioned as a possible template for any new regulations. The timetable for new American rules is not clear, but GDPR compliance is often cited as a valuable first step for U.S. companies.


Does a company “control” data or just process it?

Companies that decide what data to collect and what is done with the information are called “data controllers” under the GDPR. Companies that assist in the collection and who may work with the data – but lack decision-making authority are called “data processors.”

The burden of GDPR compliance falls heaviest on the data controllers, which are often directly customer-facing. Data processors should take steps to ensure they do not mix controller and processor roles and comply with all GDPR requirements.

Corporate privacy policies, required by the GDPR, must specify who the data controller is as well as various data processors involved in handling the information. In most cases, Cloud4Wi is a data processor and our customers are the data controllers.


What does the GDPR require?

Here are essential requirements set by the EU for organizations that handle the personal data of EU citizens:


The GDPR requires explicit permission for the gathering and use of personal data. According to the EU, companies will no longer be able to use long illegible terms and conditions full of legalese, as the request for consent must be given in an intelligible and easily accessible form. It must also be as easy to withdraw consent as to give it.


Breach Notification

Under the GDPR, breach notification is required where a data breach is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals.” This notification must be done within 72 hours of first having become aware of the breach.


Right to Access

Part of the expanded rights of data subjects outlined by the GDPR is the right for data subjects to obtain from the data controller confirmation as to whether or not personal data concerning them is being processed, where and for what purpose. Further, the controller shall provide a copy of the personal data, free of charge, in an electronic format. This change is a dramatic shift to data transparency and empowerment of data subjects.


Right to be Forgotten

Also known as Data Erasure, the right to be forgotten entitles the data subject to have the data controller erase his/her personal data, cease further dissemination of the data, and potentially have third parties halt processing of the data. The conditions for erasure include the data no longer being relevant to original purposes for processing, or a data subjects withdrawing consent. There is some flexibility here in that data controllers must compare the subjects’ rights to “the public interest in the availability of the data” when considering such requests.


Privacy by Design

Privacy by design as a concept has existed for years now, but it is only just becoming part of a legal requirement with the GDPR. At its core, privacy by design calls for the inclusion of data protection from the onset of the designing of systems, rather than an addition. Controllers are required to hold and process only the data absolutely necessary for the completion of its duties (data minimization), as well as limiting the access to personal data to those needing to act out the processing.


Data Protection Officers

A provision of the GDPR which has garnered much attention is the requirement for many firms to appoint data protection officers. And even when not required, having such a position, even informally, seems like a good idea.

The DPO is the point-of-contact between organizations and government and may be either an employee or an external service provider. In either case, the DPO must report directly to the highest level of management.


Cloud4Wi is fully compliant with GDPR

Cloud4Wi is fully compliant with this latest privay regulation, which we are happy to document. We are also working closely with our customers to assure their compliance, too. Data protection and privacy are end-to-end issues and a failure by either Cloud4Wi or a customer makes both appear untrustworthy.

In the recent months, we have conducted a detailed review of our tools, procedures and practices in light of the GDPR requirements. We have implemented the necessary changes and developed procedures to meet the requirements of the legislation. We have also appointed a DPO and a data protection working team.

We want users to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their data is protected, yet still accessible. We have implemented GDPR features for all our customers worldwide and continue to respond to local legal requirements in all markets we serve.

The Cloud4Wi’s suite self care portal, available since the first release of Volare in March 2016, guarantees the individual’s “right of access” to all the information Cloud4Wi holds about them. Users have the right to update (or erase) information, as well as their marketing preferences.

We were among the first location analytics and marketing solutions to implement the GDPR and have worked with our customers to assure their compliance, too. Cloud4Wi believes the GDPR is more than just a requirement but also a very good idea.

It will not be the last word on data protection and privacy, but the GDPR deals with immediate challenges, changing public perception, and is a framework we can build upon for the future.




Some pairings reveal themselves as true classics. Rising well above the individual contributions of two separate pieces. The combination of social media and WiFi sometimes simplified to “Social WiFi,” is one such example, changing how people and businesses communicate around the world. However, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the game has changed and changes are likely to continue.

Facebook and Instagram have decided to restrict APIs and significantly limit the data available to third parties, making users data privacy one of their top priorities. This will have impact obviously on Social WiFi. For example, the Facebook login use will a stricter review process. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of two committees of the US Senate hits at some of what may be forthcoming. His commitment to follow European data privacy rules GDPR globally seems a good sign. Still regardless of these changes, Social WiFi will continue to provide businesses its tremendous ability to drive revenue.


What can Social WiFi still do?

Social WiFi – using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, VKontakte, or other social media credentials –allows customers to get connected to the WiFi network with a secure, frictionless onboarding. Fast login brings customers closer to their social networks and enables tighter interaction with brand engagement and loyalty programs. That hasn’t changed. What’s more, once a customer has logged in through their social media account, brands can gather some demographic information on their profile, such as gender and age, according to customer privacy preferences.

In the future, more of this information gathering may be done by the brands themselves through a survey rather than relying on information shared by Facebook. If customers trust the brands they love, they will provide brands with the demographic and other information that Facebook will not or can no longer make available. In this way, savvy brands using Social WiFi might gain a significant advantage over competitors lacking such technology and customer trust. Brands have also the ability to track customer behavior and on-site foot traffic.

Understanding customer behavior at this level offers brands customer insights not available to competitors lacking the social media connection. Empowered with this in-depth information, brands can send relevant, personalized messages to customers and improve business performance. Because they are well-known and understood, the brand’s customers can be easily targeted with special events, promotions, and other experiences they look forward to receiving because they have a real brand relationship.

Together, social media and WiFi make it easy to spread the brand’s news, promotions, and events and encourage customers to contribute their own experiences to the customer community. Customers can become opinion leaders and influencers without great personal effort, a real benefit to the brands and products they like and endorse.


WiFi goes where cellular does not

WiFi makes these benefits possible, taking the Internet and social media where cellular wireless data does not go. WiFi is especially valuable indoors, where many users now demand social media access. Only WiFi has the ubiquity and low cost to make social media the mass phenomena it has become. Combining social media and WiFi drives what today is a connected business and social environment, enjoyed by hundreds of millions worldwide yet unavailable not too many years ago.


Social WiFi will continue to drive business

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has forced Facebook to take data privacy seriously and has changed the Social WiFi game. However, regardless of what Facebook does, Social WiFi will remain a powerful tool that enables businesses to generate customer loyalty and improve results.