The way we view physical venues is forever changed. As 2021 kicks off, brick-and-mortar businesses will continue to adapt to meet the needs of their customers. They will need to be prepared to provide an individualized experience while keeping safety of both customers and employees at the forefront. Businesses will see shifts in behavior, service, mind-set, as well as their physical venue layout. Skyfii’s CEO, Wayne Arthur, gives his thoughts on what businesses should expect and consider as we move forward in 2021.

Wayne Arthur, CEO of Skyfii Limited

With the COVID-19 vaccine, will business go back to pre-COVID operations or will venue occupancy management continue to be important?

There will be a rebound in some business types in the short-term. Once the vaccine is wide-spread, I believe people will want to return to restaurants, bars, theaters, and shopping centers. Smarter businesses will have a system in place to monitor occupancy levels to ensure they can stay open and show they are invested in customer and employee safety. In the medium to long-term, I believe building design and layout will need to be optimized to suit occupancy requirements and crowd behavior. This will be especially important in offices and hospitality venues. Businesses will also adopt customer service changes that will require further technology investment and better staffing. For example, automated pay services will most likely be mandatory as more places stop accepting cash.

Will venue analytics be increasingly more important for businesses?

Absolutely. The ability to gather data and translate it into actionable insights for physical and digital businesses has always been important to ensure the best customer experience and will only become more important. Venues need to have full visibility into how their space is utilized. They must understand what’s working, what’s not, and have the ability to make decisions in real-time to adapt to customer behavior. This is why companies like Skyfii successfully do what we do. Our value proposition preceded COVID-19. Our goal from day one has been to harness data to provide our customers with insights they can use to deliver better customer experiences, drive operational efficiencies, improve loyalty, and deliver more sales.

Will businesses need more of an emphasis on occupancy monitoring?

Businesses will need to track and understand the flow of people more than ever. Grocery stores will need to continue to manage occupancy from both a customer and employee safety standpoint and ensure they have a measurement technology in place. Venues that expect to reopen or return to higher levels of occupancy like airports, shopping centers, stadiums, and restaurants will want to implement as many checks and balances as possible. This will ensure they service customers and employees effectively and prevent any shutdowns in the future. I do not believe there is any going back to “normal” at this point, particularly not in 2021. The pandemic forced us all to view customer experience in physical venues differently and I believe this shift of focus will most likely stay with us for the long term. Businesses will need to adapt to these behavioral shifts.

Will businesses view Guest WiFi and the use of a Captive Portal as more of a necessary part of their marketing strategy?

Guest WiFi and the effective use of a Captive Portal are not new concepts. These customer engagement solutions were prevalent long before 2020. However, a growing number of customers see the inherent marketing value in terms of customer engagement. Plus, that value can be cost effective and unobtrusively delivered using a quality Guest Wifi Captive Portal solution. Any business that serves customers should have a solution like this in place. In addition, we are seeing a definite shift from retailers and other public spaces who now recognize the opportunity to harness valuable insight from technology sources such as Guest WiFi. They understand the contextual value that is possible from fusing these insights with other data sources already in these venues. This can drive better customer experiences and improved business performance.

It is extremely valuable and is becoming a fundamental part of a business customer engagement strategy. But, it must be delivered in the right way—seamless, with low intrusion, and in a personalized fashion. Marketers can be smart with the service because it provides the ability to segment and retarget audiences, progressively profile, build up relevant audience data, and deliver surveys to understand guest sentiment. All of which lead to improvements in customer experience.

Historical data shows that when customers are asked to enter an email address to get free WiFi, 10-15% of them will do so at least once. That may not sound like a large amount, but is a significant portion of a customer database. The mentality of customers has shifted. If they trust the brand, the value exchange is acceptable and a seamless guest opt in process is more prevalent and widely adopted.

Do you foresee any tech advances or big industry changes in 2021?

I foresee more of a mind-set shift over a large scale technology shift. I believe people will see the value in correlating data from a growing number of available sources to deliver a better customer experience. It’s a priority and a necessity even more now. Businesses need to enhance their spaces to ensure they are delivering a safe, relevant, and optimized customer experience. This mindset shift will help drive the need to harness data, automate services, and deliver better experiences which ultimately will lead to business growth.

What other changes do you believe businesses need to make this year?

Whether a business is physical or digital, the focus should be on improving customer experience. Businesses need to understand customer behavior, sentiment, and preferences particularly in a post-COVID world. Buildings and physical spaces are not doomed but they will need to adapt their layouts, operating procedures, and potentially staffing requirements. The work from home shift is here to stay in some capacity, so less people will naturally occupy commercial spaces, at least in the short to medium term. Business owners need to figure out how best to improve their space to deliver the best ROI. In order to make those decisions, you need to harness the right data.

I also see an internal shift in terms of how employees are trained. Employees need to understand why data is valuable and how to act on it. Businesses should train their staff on how to personalize customer experience based on knowing their customer. Employees must be better equipped to serve and compete differently as we approach this next phase. It is also important for us at Skyfii to be an authority on this subject. That’s why we partnered with the Property Council Academy on their Retail Property Industry Diploma and Data Driven Insights Courses for 2021. Education on the importance of data, analytics, and how to actually use those insights to make decisions is integral.