The Tech That's Transforming The Industry Of Fun: Business Operations, The Revenue … – Forbes

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Having been in the family entertainment center (FEC) sphere for more than 20 years, I am privy to how technological advancements have affected operators and businesses. While some have willingly embraced the changes brought by digitalization, others are still fazed by contactless business solutions like mobile payments, cloud-based systems (CRM and real-time business reports) and other seemingly “daunting” service trends that consumers expect.

The pandemic specifically accelerated the low-touch contactless economy. With consumers expecting safer, faster and instant ways to engage businesses, a number of family entertainment centers have followed suit, each with their own success stories to tell.

According to Visa’s Consumer Payment Attitudes Study in 2021, consumers are driving the shift toward cashless payment experiences in Southeast Asia. Non-cash users have turned to online card payments (25%) and online wallets (23%). Over 1 in 4 (26%) users opt for contactless payments, including contactless cards and mobile contactless.

As digitalization eliminates overlaps, gaps and errors in processes and operations, cashless solutions also prove to be maximizers of operational efficiency when it comes to costs, maintenance, manpower and eliminating hurdles to growing revenue.

The Tech Of Today

To be measured as transformational, tech solutions should respond to a growing consumer trend or behavior to shape how businesses should best operate. In turn, the consumer journey is redefined to a superior experience every visit, impacting how the revenue landscape can be expanded, create new revenue streams and make lifetime customers.

For perspective, the family entertainment industry is traditionally immune to economic downturns because there’s rarely a time that families won’t find a way to celebrate a child’s birthday, but these operations were the first to close and the last to reopen because they are considered high-traffic, nonessential businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of available technology today that allows businesses to deviate from spreadsheets, POS-centric systems, cash-operated hardware and other traditional manual and labor-intensive processes, such as:

1. Cashless Systems: One option for a cashless experience is mobile wallet technology, which allows guests to load or reload game cards even before entering a venue and can help eliminate long lines, wait times, busy staff and other reasons that shorten the customer journey. These solutions can also give FECs access to rich user data that they can translate into strategies such as personalized promotions, offers and loyalty programs to drive return visits.

2. Software as a Service: Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are likewise getting the traction they deserve. Instead of manual data gathering and reporting across multiple business venues and customer touchpoints, operators now have cloud-based options to automate reports in real time. This allows head honchos to have data-backed decision making that impacts both the operations and revenue landscape. Operators can now check which customer touchpoints drive the highest revenue at different peak hours while at the same time enjoying the visibility of the entire operation with just a tap or a click.

3. Game Card Dispensing Kiosks: Businesses that use kiosks as additional manpower can also experience a cutdown on recruitment costs, staffing problems and customer complaints.

Challenges To Technology Adoption

Transitioning manual operations to digital starts by identifying pain points of the day-to-day. How long does management take to crunch reports that can help make real-time decisions? How much time does it take for staff to respond to a guest’s concern before that customer walks away? How can a guest spend less time queueing at counters to reload or purchase before getting back to the game? Pinpointing the challenges can help operators prioritize which processes need to be transitioned immediately.

Even after identifying pain points to solve, FECs should expect a few barriers to entry to adopting technology. For one, a business solution is an upfront investment—getting the wrong solution can be financially debilitating; the right solution should pay for itself via increased operational savings and increased profit.

When choosing a solution, consider asking potential vendors these key questions: How will the system maximize staff’s man hours, reducing their time troubleshooting so they can focus on the guests? How will it cut maintenance costs by eliminating ticket or coin jams? Can the solution integrate with games and attractions? How secure is the system for card transactions? How easy and manageable is it from the backend? Does it have capabilities that will help the FEC expand and customize it in the future? Is there available support to get things back up in case of downtimes?

Finally, when rolling out the new system, operators need a seamless plan to get the ball rolling in a way that would not cause any downtime. Before implementing technology, ensure that staff is properly trained on how the system works. The success of the new system is also heavily reliant on how it is communicated to the guests. The goal is to not have customers intimidated by the changes—marketing collateral should be in place, including step-by-step actions they should take for a successful transaction. Cascading this new information should be done both online and in person.

Once these challenges are overcome, operators find that it makes a world of difference to take the plunge into digitization and cashless systems. As the world becomes increasingly cashless, the most important question might be: “If not now, then when?”

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