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.

 

 

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:

Consent

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.

 

 

 

Cities all strive toward a few goals. They want to increase the quality of life for citizens and visitors, they want a way to better engage their people, they want data to drive better decisions, and they ultimately want to save the city budget.

Recently, more and more cities have been deploying advanced technology such as IoT, big data, and augmented reality. This is all in an effort to become ‘smarter’ in a multitude of areas, such as government, transportation, public safety, education and healthcare. But to achieve this requires a lot of work and commitment. Changes have to be made to the city hardware infrastructure. Automation needs to be established for municipal facilities. Digital services need provisioning and citizens need to be engaged during the process.

This is where WiFi plays a key role. Offering city-wide public WiFi helps create new possibilities, not just to improve the livelihood of citizens and visitors, but for cities as well. A magnitude of benefits can be enjoyed by the city, from promoting attractions to gathering analytics.

 

How to create smart cities

Making lives easier

In an already ‘always connected’ world, being able to provide people with a fast, easy-to-use WiFi connection is comparable to supplying fresh water – the public needs internet. However, in a connected city, you’re likely to find more than one public WiFi network, so it’s more important than ever before that citizens and visitors aren’t constantly hounded by requests for public WiFi logins. WiFi providers should move to a federated network offering before these cities become established, so the public is able to access any WiFi network, using one authenticated, federated identity across several devices.

Owning unique, digital identities will enable citizens and visitors alike to access public services by using the same digital identity. For example, a commuter spending too much time each week searching for a parking space in a busy city center will be a problem of the past, as sensors on-board vehicles will be able to connect to sensors based around the vicinity and alert drivers of unoccupied parking spaces. With WiFi enabling citizens to access real-time maps, this one solution alone will eliminate the rush-hour stress faced by many.

 

Promoting city attractions

City officials should take advantage of the omnipresent WiFi by promoting local businesses and events via the public WiFi’s welcome portal. Whether it’s a first-time user signing up, or a long-standing WiFi consumer, they’ll all be directed to a welcome screen which can be used to publicize the city’s latest exhibitions, or highlight where the local museums and places of interest are located.

For members of the public out and about in the city, promotional messages can be used to boost the city’s economy and increase how much visitors spend. Theatres that still have tickets for an upcoming performance can use presence-triggered messages to passersby offering discounted prices. Similarly, restaurants and hotels with tables and rooms to fill that evening can promote their availability – targeting new connections to the local WiFi, with the aim of catching tourists, or simply emailing those digital identities that have previously connected to local dining establishments.

 

Improving the quality of life

Ubiquitous, city-wide WiFi is very much about convenience. For example, it’s essential for smart cities to monitor what’s going on in the city to provide a better quality of life. This can be done by collecting data from devices and integrating real-time monitoring systems. Having this information can help cities make better decisions when trying to improve the efficiency of how the city runs. For example, transport authorities can use data to predict commuter wait times and subsequently pass this data on to stations scheduling train departures, making an overall improvement to traffic effectiveness.

City officials can monitor car parks and streets via the sophisticated presence and location analytics integrated into the public WiFi to alert drivers when entering busy areas to help them avoid congestion.

Beyond monitoring traffic and keeping the city from grinding to a halt, it’s also possible to use location analytics to decipher busy public areas. These analytics would certainly come in handy to improve real-time responses from the city. If a public gathering steadily increased in numbers – the data could alert local police stations and officers in the vicinity to ensure close monitoring of the area.

 

Boosting tourism

For tourists, a strong WiFi network in a public space is a valuable commodity for public service providers. Local businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries can take over the public WiFi’s welcome portal to promote their latest offers for things like car rentals and tourist attractions. Similarly, hotels can boost brand loyalty by offering reduced stays for visitors coming back to the city, using triggered alerts when the user connects to the WiFi.

It’s the ability to send out alerts to travelers arriving to a central transport hub – about the location of the nearest tourist center or public restrooms, and directing to interactive displays or kiosks that enhance visitor experiences in local areas – that makes public WiFi an essential element of making cities smart.

 

 

 

Businesses are constantly thinking about what new technology can be used to help reach customers. With so many shiny new gadgets out on the market, an often taken-for-granted yet very crucial infrastructure is WiFi.

WiFi is so vital for businesses to implement new strategies that work towards their goals, and it’ll continue to play a huge role as businesses continue to explore new and innovative ways to remain relevant.

 

WiFi trends on the agenda for businesses in 2017

Uninterrupted internet connection

As the latest iteration of smartphones and wearables flood the market, consumers now expect higher degrees of utility from each product upgrade. The more the utility grows, the more fundamental uninterrupted internet connectivity becomes. In a recent report by iPass, 63% of consumers indicated they would choose a WiFi hotspot over mobile data. No surprise given that the more apps consumers run, the quicker that data usage starts to stack up and the more expensive it costs. With everyone seeking WiFi everywhere they go, it’s inevitable that brick-and-mortar businesses will need to provide customers with a reliable connection.

What an opportunity guest WiFi brings. From retail to hospitality to the transportation industry, by offering guest WiFi, businesses are able to make data-driven decisions to improve operations. Analytics can be used to optimize staffing hours, make smart product placement decisions, and reduce points of friction. Guest WiFi can also bring a new communications channel in which to engage customers. Whether it’s push notifications or real-time interactions, 2017 presents a lucrative opportunity to elevate customer engagement through uninterrupted WiFi connections.

 

Digital transformation

More organizations want to offer staff and customers a better digital experience without increasing overall IT spend. There’s a real opportunity in 2017 for businesses to accelerate this transformation through smarter use of the WiFi networks they already have in place.

CIO and IT departments have traditionally been responsible for WiFi deployments, but are now no longer the only parties with a vested interest in the technology. Extending the functionality of the WiFi platform can enable seamless integration between front and back end IT systems – such as payments, CRM or even security systems, streamlining operational functions for employees, while providing a better experience for customers.

Whether it’s sales teams or service staff taking WiFi-enabled payments from customers anywhere in a venue, or shoppers and diners browsing promotions via branded apps in situ, CIOs, CDOs and CMOs can work together to create a network that delivers on all of their business objectives.

 

Federated identity

As more WiFi networks are made available to the public, the process of logging in becomes a hassle and potentially frustrating if guests can’t remember pre-registered login details. Consequently, 2017 will see many guest WiFi providers move to a federated network offering. This public system of digital identity is already a popular approach in many European countries. By having one user account, guests can gain access to all different services – government, education, transportation, healthcare, banks, and of course, WiFi access. This helps both simplify and secure the login process, and users are auto-connected to any public network with their credentials.

 

IoT

Many consumers will argue that current WiFi hotspots aren’t able to support simple bandwidth-intensive actions such as downloading music or streaming live videos. In 2017, businesses will increasingly require networks to adequately support a host of new IoT-enabled applications.

With the IoT market expected to be worth over $1.1bn by 2021, businesses will need high-performing WiFi networks that will connect the countless number of devices and sensors required for an interconnected digital world. Those WiFi platforms that will offer interoperability between existing infrastructures and a way of connecting the billions of devices in a unified way, will rise to the top.

 

Preparing for the future

The WiFi trends this year will set the precedent for the future. Whether business goals involve digital transformation or utilizing new IoT devices, one thing’s for sure: WiFi is a key aspect in supporting new technology and will play a huge role in how businesses operate in the future.

 

 

 

Global brands are increasingly being driven by worldwide networks, including global guest WiFi. As WiFi has become an expected amenity by customers, it has also risen as a source for personal customer information matched by few others.

Yet bringing everything together can be a challenge and brands need platforms that are both powerful to bring network resources together, and also manageable to function well at multiple locations around the world.

 

Adapt locally yet think globally

Global management is driven by consistency. In the case of guest WiFi, this requires all the welcome portals, login steps, welcome messages, etc. to be almost identical, at least in function. This allows a single management team to control the entire global service.

The local language issues need to be taken into consideration as well. This can be achieved by providing consistent elements placed on pages in basically the same location so an English speaker for instance, can manage a page written in Polish or Portuguese because of the great user experience.

 

One place for global guest WiFi management

Besides consistent welcome portals and regulatory issues, a common and flexible management panel is also necessary. Managers should be able to organize tasks that best suit the needs, so permissions can be assigned to platform users, based on job function, location, or other variables as needed.

This could allow local managers to make specific changes to elements on customer-facing welcome portals to promote local news and events. Top level management should be able to delegate chosen permissions across the organization to facilitate the best of play global and look local across their brand.

 

Tailor guest WiFi to global business opportunities

Designing such an optimized global guest WiFi, responsive to local laws with as little sacrifice as possible, is a discussion that should take place from the beginning of the project. To sustain the magnitude of global collaboration, trade-offs may be acceptable. Even compromises are welcomed to make global guest Wi-Fi do as much as possible everywhere it is installed. As brands expand their guest WiFi expectations, the importance of scalability grows. Being able to manage global guest WiFi and harvest data from a single dashboard available everywhere is more than a good idea, it is a C-suite demand.

Offering a global guest WiFi that is easy to manage and configure at any location is not a far away dream. Brands are doing it now and so can you, but there are many steps to plan for and around, and these are just a few of them.

Good planning is key and that starts with customers who know what they want and work closely with vendors to develop a plan that guarantees success.

If you are interested to know how Cloud4Wi can help you build global management into your guest WiFi, contact us now!