COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the attractions industry around the world. Now, locations are beginning to reopen and many suppliers are stepping up to help businesses adapt to the new normal.
Many suppliers and vendors were quick to pivot and offer extra services during the pandemic, showing the resilience of the attractions industry. One such company is Embed, a leading worldwide supplier of point-of-sale and revenue management systems, which introduced its COVID-19 Relief Act in April 2020.
As part of this, the company is giving away its latest award-winning innovation, the Mobile Wallet, away for free to enable safe contactless gameplay.
Inevitably, being closed for an extended period has tremendously impacted attractions across the globe, from FECs and theme parks to museums and zoos. But after a difficult year, people are keen to get out and visit these locations once more. There is certainly a lot of pent-up demand, with people looking for fun experiences that they can safely enjoy together.
However, all businesses have to adapt to a post-pandemic world and the mindset of visitors has changed. One major factor that operators need to realise as they welcome guests once again, is that they need to work to build trust as people get used to the new normal. We’re looking at some of the ways Embed is helping attractions to keep their guests safe and happy, so they will return again and again.
Embed’s response to COVID-19
In 2019, the idea that the majority of visitor attractions around the world would close their doors would have been inconceivable. Yet, the pandemic caused the unthinkable in 2020, with many attractions in Asia closing temporarily in January, followed by locations in the USA, Europe and the rest of the world less than two months later.
Like many others, Embed sprang to action straight away. Its goal was to help the struggling industry which lost its income overnight.
We believe that even the smallest of initiatives has the potential to impact and transform a person’s life
“Embed is a small business with offices all over the world and we are committed to working with our partners and customers, doing absolutely everything we can, within our means to support our industry’s recovery,” said Renee Welsh, CEO, speaking in April as the crisis began to unfold.
“The best way out of this is through planning ahead, anticipate what can be done and looking for innovative ways of doing things. We believe that even the smallest of initiatives has the potential to impact and transform a person’s life.”
Backing up these words with actions, Embed proceeded to launch a range of initiatives, with its COVID-19 Relief Act.
The COVID-19 Relief Act
Firstly, the Embed team began to publish educational and inspirational content on its blog, specifically written to support its customers during the crisis. Topics included how to engage with guests during the lockdown and how to be a game-changer during the crisis. While some suppliers went dark, Embed doubled-down its efforts to support businesses, endeavouring to bring the industry together.
“There is power in comforting people during a tough time, letting them know they are not alone and assuring them we’ll through this together,” said Embed CMO, Sara Paz.
In addition to this, the company also introduced #EmbedLIVE, a series of video chats featuring industry leaders speaking on a range of topics connected with how to navigate the effects of the pandemic and the closures, and getting through it.
However, perhaps the most impactful part of Embed’s COVID-19 Relief Act was the fact that the company offered a year’s free access to its award-winning Mobile Wallet.
“At Embed, we want to do our part to support our customers prepare for their reopening day,” said Welsh. “We thought long and hard about how we can do this, and we decided to give away our latest award-winning innovation, the Mobile Wallet, free for 1-year to everyone. No app required. The virtual game card sits in the mobile wallet so you can offer your customers a safe contactless payment and FEC experience.”
How Mobile Wallet helps recovery
The Mobile Wallet is a virtual game card which visitors can add to the Apple Wallet or Google Pay and then use to seamlessly continue gaming. It works in the same way as a standard game card but sits directly in the guest’s mobile wallet. Thanks to this innovative technology, gamers can simply tap and reload their game card, anytime, anywhere, without leaving the game to top up.
Embed’s Mobile Wallet also gives operators a chance to gain insight into guest behaviour and spending habits. This means that they can introduce tailored offers, helping to drive repeat visits and encourage customer loyalty, future-proofing their business.
But how can this technology help operators to recover better?
“A new type of customer will emerge from this pandemic,” explained Welsh. “After a long-lockdown period, the surge of consumers will emerge and only go to businesses they perceive as safe. They will be more conscious of hygiene, price and social distancing than ever before. It is unmistakable that people don’t want to touch cash, coins, papers, or anything that transmits viruses.”
Even before the pandemic, the use of contactless payments around the world was on the rise. In early 2019, a quarter of all POS transactions that ran over the Visa network were contactless. By the start of 2020, this had increased to a third.
In the wake of COVID-19, touchless and touch-free technologies are the new buzzwords, and increasingly expected by consumers.
One example of an operator which has benefitted from contactless technology is Ticket Time in Queensland, Australia. Here, Embed’s solutions have helped owner Luke Phillips to successfully open a new business and a pop-up arcade during the pandemic.
An FEC business has several additional things to take into account, following COVID-19. For instance, capacity management, arrival check-in for tracking and tracing purposes and social distancing requirements.
However, thanks to his partnership with Embed, Phillips can use an integrated system which can seamlessly handle these new government-mandated procedures without impacting the customer experience. Plus, visitors to Ticket Time can easily reload their game cards and check their balances. They can do so without queuing and without having to come face-to-face with staff, or handle potentially germ-ridden cash, cards or tickets.
Along with the physical store, the business also opened a Pop-Up Arcade in partnership with a local mall operator. This is unmanned and any customers with existing Ticket Time game cards can use them at the Pop-Up Arcade. Now, guests can find some relief from the pressures of COVID-19 by enjoying clean, safe fun.
“The biggest improvement that helped our business is installing the Embed Kiosk,” said Phillips. “With smaller staffing needs during this time, this machine has been so valuable for us. It takes the pressure off our staff in busier times. It’s the best investment machine I have purchased.”
Embed has also recently brought its Mobile Wallet technology to Scary Strokes in Waldorf, Maryland, USA. Now, Scary Strokes is able to offer safe, contactless gameplay and redemption options, helping to attract customers back following COVID-19.
As part of its commitment to providing COVID-19 relief for operators, Embed has now also added a QR system to the Mobile Wallet solution. This allows operators to scan customers who visit their locations. As a result, the Mobile Wallet can track what games the customer played and when. It can also track who played the same games afterwards. This means that operators can easily track and trace guests in the event of a breakout.
“When Embed introduced the Mobile Wallet, it seemed like a good opportunity for us to jump in and see what it was all about, and there’s nothing not to like about it,” said Doug Roth, President & CEO of Scary Strokes.
“It’s clever and very convenient; there is no need to visit a kiosk or a staff member. Guests can do everything from the comfort of their phone.”
When Scary Strokes reopened its doors after the lockdown in June, it was concerned about its recovery. But by September, its revenue was over 100% YoY. “Supporting our customers through thick and thin, and watching them soar! This is what we live for…” said Paz.
Another of Embed’s customers prospering during the pandemic is Gamestate in the Netherlands. Gamestate has seven sites across Europe. It has also recently opened one new location in Breda and has plans to open one more in Prague by the end of 2020.
Embed’s solutions, such as the award-winning smartTOUCH, include a customised message: “Please Clean This Game After Use”. This further shows the pandemic’s impact on the family entertainment industry and its elevated cleaning protocols.
Gamestate also installed Embed’s self-service kiosk, which helped during this period. Leroy Dijkstra, Operations Manager at Gamestate said “Embed’s kiosk is a life-saver. Given the physical distancing measures in place, our employees had to have less interaction with the guests. But the guest experience is not compromised. because they can easily reload their game cards without having to queue.”
Embed’s Hygiene Defence
In addition to its COVID-19 Relief Act, Embed also launched its new range of cleaning solutions in July 2020. Embed Hygiene Defence is a line of non-toxic hygiene protection products. These are designed to be more effective and safer than traditional harsh cleaners.
Embed Hygiene Defence is an environmentally friendly solution that kills 99.9% of a broad spectrum of pathogens on contact. This includes COVID-19 and other viruses, as well as airborne bacteria, fungi spores and mould.
As a result of the pandemic, consumers only want to visit venues they perceive as clean and safe.
“This is forcing businesses to elevate their sanitation and hygiene with stricter cleaning schedules, resulting in increased frequency of cleaning, that is exposing employees and guests to higher amounts of toxic cleaning fumes (riddled with health hazards) and a higher risk of fire for the business owners,” said Walsh.
“Family entertainment, attractions and amusement industries are family-centric businesses, so the cleaning products they use need to be family-friendly with non-toxic chemicals to protect team members and the youngest most-vulnerable of guests, children. But many industrial cleaners on the market today contain harmful chemicals that are damaging to human health, and terrible for the environment.
“Embed Hygiene Defence protection is what our industry most needs now, helping our industry partners to address the new normal way of life.”
Tested and trusted products
The complete range of Embed Hygiene Defence products is independently tested by Eurofins, a TGA licensed laboratory, UNSW and Chemsil Pty Ltd. They are formulated with 100% Australian natural active ingredients as well as organic certified biodegradable steam-distilled essential oils.
Embed Hygiene Defence Surface Spray lasts for four hours on surfaces. This is ideal for FECs and amusement venues which are home to many high-touch surfaces. For instance games and gaming equipment, as well as door handles and kiosks.
Most operators realise the importance of keeping surfaces clean. However, it’s vital to remember that viruses can also be spread by airborne particles.
Masks are now mandatory in many places, helping to prevent potentially infectious people from spreading germs. But there could still be airborne particles from other sources around. For example, from things like air-conditioners. Airflow from air conditioning units pushes droplets through the air, recirculating them through the room.
Stopping germs in their tracks
To bring operators relief from the pressures of COVID-19, Embed Hygiene Defence also provides a solution to the problem of airborne virus transmission. This is thanks to two products – its Airborne Defence System and Airborne Defence Sanitising Gel. These both include proprietary active ingredients.
While COVID-19 is a key reason to be mindful of airborne germs at the present moment, Embed’s Airborne Defence System also protects from a wide range of other bacteria. In fact, unlike traditional air fresheners and purifiers, it kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, odour, fungi spores and mould.
The Airborne Defence System results in 24/7 protection. And, due to the safe, environmentally friendly formula, venues do not need to evacuate while it is being placed. Instead, they can carry on as normal, meaning no loss of revenue.
In addition to this, the Sanitising Gel evaporates slowly into the air stream. When in the air stream, it can then spread to all corners of the room. This product is formulated to stop the ability of airborne and surface germs to breathe and reproduce.
Here, the facility manager requested Embed’s Airborne Defence System with San-Air. This was in order to combat recurring episodes of sickness among staff in the office. Describing the problem, he said he could “see this section of the floor getting sick, sniffling and coughing and all going home sick and taking a few days off.
“Then they come back and the next lot of people go off with the same respiratory infections. Round and round the office it goes all year round.”
Before taking action, Embed measured the airborne count of mould and bacteria to establish a base level. This exercise showed a potential Aspergillus mould contamination. This substance is often a cause of respiratory infections. After this inspection, the product was introduced into the office’s plant room.
Then, test results were collected five and nine weeks after Embed’s Airborne Defence System was in place. This showed a dramatic reduction in mould colonies and bacteria colonies after just five weeks. The mould was eradicated after nine weeks.
Suitable germ relief for a range of venues
Other case studies show that Embed’s Airborne Defence System achieves results in a range of settings. For instance, when used in a Sydney homeless shelter, it was able to reduce the number of chest infections by reducing airborne contaminants. In this case, there was a remarkable 746% reduction in the amount of mould present after 30 days. There was also a 449% reduction in the amount of bacteria over the same period.
The solution was also used in the ducted air conditioning system of a residential home. Here, the active ingredients decreased the number of microbial contaminants by 90%. In addition to this, the customer stopped having asthma attacks within 48 hours.
Embed provides COVID-19 crisis relief
The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate effect on attractions around the world. And it will continue to have long-lived effects, as the industry begins to reopen and recover while dealing with further waves of infection and changing regulations.
However, it is a resilient industry, full of passionate people with a desire to weather the storm. If operators can make their venues safe, both through effective cleaning and through contactless solutions, they will build trust with guests as they return. With the right solutions and by engaging customers in the process, operators have the potential to rebuild and to thrive once more.