The age of co-working spaces is upon us. This flexible approach to business life has grown exponentially in just the past few years, driven by the boom in startups, entrepreneurialism, and remote workers. The co-working market now has more than 7,000 players across the world offering a huge range of different types of space, locations and facilities.
The growth of the co-working movement has been powered by technology, most pertinently, the mobile worker. With the onset of mobile devices, these workers can be located anywhere, creating presentations on laptops, using tablets to review documents, and relying on smartphones to quickly reply to emails. Historically, in the rush to get their spaces up and running, many co-working players were forced to hastily extend office WiFi access to their new patrons, often by extending whatever legacy infrastructure was already in place within the venue. This approach clearly paid dividends initially as co-working gathered pace, but as the market has become more and more commoditized, simply offering basic office WiFi connectivity is not necessarily enough for co-working players to continue attracting new members and increasing revenue.
Making the most of office WiFi
Demand for collaborative workspace environments may have risen rapidly, but the fact remains that making a success of this business is not always easy. With a requirement to lease city centre properties in desirable locations, co-working providers often find themselves facing high-fixed costs while battling with hugely inconsistent income streams. They need to take every opportunity they can to market their locations, facilities and amenities to current and prospective members – for some the draw will be conference rooms where they can invite visitors for meetings, for others, a social scene comprising shared kitchens, lounge areas or free beverages.
Deploying office WiFi is a quick and easy way to reach members. It gives providers a centralized hub from which to promote their story to guests, to market the latest offers, and to provide other essential information about the space, from opening hours to any building maintenance information, policies regarding inviting guests and so forth. Everyone who logs onto the office WiFi gets taken to the hub before being granted access to the wider web, giving the provider a captive audience with which to engage. For the newest member of the co-working space, this portal could serve as a place to promote their business. Similarly, if some of the businesses located on-site are running networking events, the WiFi platform acts as an ideal place to highlight the gatherings and garner further local interest.
Making a co-working brand stand out
So much of successful destination marketing is about delivering familiarity – a consistent brand presence, look and feel from one location to the next. For co-working providers, this can be a challenge given that their physical venues may well be completely different in size and shape, located within buildings that are also totally disparate in look and feel.
That said, these limitations need not apply to the virtual world, and co-working providers can quickly create a standardized Wi-Fi Welcome Portal for members to engage with, irrespective of which co-working space they are visiting. This applies even if venues are equipped with differing technology, as over-the-top office WiFi platforms can be rolled out across many types of infrastructure without affecting the front-end appearance to members. Furthermore, if co-workers visit a different venue run by the same provider, the WiFi network can recognize their device and automatically log them in, giving them a seamless experience irrespective of their location.
Understanding co-working habits
One of the big problems facing co-working providers is that, beyond the swipe-in and swipe-out times registered by their members, they have little insight into how members are using services, how much value they’re getting from the space, which members might be interested in incremental services and, crucially, who might be about to trade-in their membership.
Co-working office providers need to ensure they’re using their office WiFi to capture more meaningful information about their members, this can include frequency of visits, time spent online etc. – and generate insights that can be fed back into the marketing mix to further drive personalized promotions and triggered campaigns. Location Analytics garnered from office WiFi usage will give providers a view of which areas of the offices are used more frequently. Whether it’s the comfier chairs, better conference phones or projection capabilities, site providers can then roll these elements out to other rooms and further afield to new co-working locations.
Can members who only spend short amounts of time in the co-working space be induced into sticking around longer by offering them special offers on food and drinks, for example? How about spotting which members are returning less and less, and sending emails to them with a tailored incentive to return, such as lower prices on meeting rooms or the ability for them to invite business associates to join at a reduced rate. Furthermore, office WiFi enables providers to promote short surveys to users so they can garner snippets of valuable feedback about improving the environment, the available technology or even kitchen supplies.
Collaborative work environments are here to stay. The question is whether providers can act now to set their venues apart and deliver a more engaging and valuable experience for their members, using technologies such as office WiFi to deliver genuine added-value and give them a reason to keep coming back.