As the attractions industry emerges into the uncertainty of a post-pandemic world, Embed, a global leader in integrated cashless business management technology, signposts the way to a brighter future.
The company has over 1,000 customers and more than 3,000 installations around the world. Embed has offices in the USA, EMEA and Asia, and was recently awarded 50 Leading Companies 2021 for its service to the business community during the pandemic. We speak to the Veltmeijer Group to understand how Embed’s solutions have helped it to grow despite the challenges of the past year.
Innovation is crucial at this point. In the wake of the global pandemic, consumer behaviour is constantly changing and evolving.
For instance, people are increasingly embracing contactless payment technology. This is a key trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic, as touch-free systems become part of the mechanism of making people feel safe. Consumers drive technology adoption, and businesses that fail to follow that lead are unlikely to thrive.
Innovating to survive
Outdated technology or a lack of technology are markers on the road to business failure. Hardware needs to be current, and software needs periodic updates to remain relevant to customers’ expectations.
It is innovation, particularly in a crisis, that ensures survival.
According to a study by McKinsey & Co., 90% of those in the attractions sector believe that the pandemic will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 5 years.
85% are concerned COVID will have a lasting impact on their customers’ needs and wants over the next 5 years. Only 21% have the expertise and resources to pursue new growth successfully, while two out of three believe this will be the most challenging moment in their executive career.
Embed’s integrated systems offer optimised low-touch technology solutions at the apex of the customer experience. Friction points are removed, and a seamless experience facilitated through agile booking, capacity management and cashless payment options.
The Embed Bookings system enables greater efficiency from pre-arrival with real-time space reservations. Guests can book anytime, anywhere, while employees can track reservations and plan accordingly.
Guests can also check-in and check-out seamlessly using the Mobile Wallet QR code scan. This reduces crowding at the entrance, managing capacity and offering COVID-19 contact tracing. It also allows them to re-load their mobile game card without the inconvenience of standing in line.
The Veltmeijer Group
The Veltmeijer Group, arcade game pioneers and Europe’s market-leading innovators in the Family Entertainment Centre industry, have benefited from Embed’s intuitive technology solutions.
Roger Tubée, the joint CEO of the Group, talks to blooloop about the company and its growth throughout the lockdown. He also explains how Embed solutions, such as smartTOUCH, helped the business, and how he intends to advance technology at the company’s FEC sites.
The Veltmeijer Group is a family company. Tubée married into it, and, together with Roel Veltmeijer, his wife’s nephew, holds and runs the company. Both are in the role of CEO.
“I have known the family for a long time, and have been working in the company for about 15 years now,” says Tubée. “Together, we set up the lines for the long-term future, and manage the company on a daily basis.”
Three distinct brands
Beyond that, they each concentrate on their own areas of expertise:
“I specialise in the internal operation of the head office, the technical department, the warehouse and logistics. Roel’s focus is the external parties, stakeholders, and our business partners.”
“Historically, we had operations in Europe, mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany, where we operated our Gametown locations at Center Parcs, building our knowledge of arcades and leisure.”
Under the Veltmeijer Group umbrella, the three Game brands are differentiated.
“The Gamestate brand is the one we use for our stand-alone operations which we don’t operate with a business partner, but by ourselves. The Gametown brand is used for our operations in partnership with Center Parcs Holiday Park locations. Then we use the Gamecity brand when we operate with a business partner other than Centre Parcs.”
Building on the Gametown experience, the Group opened the first Gamestate in the Netherlands in 2013, an independent arcade in a city environment:
“That was also our first use of Embed’s technology. Since then, we have opened a further eight Gamestate locations with Embed systems in the Netherlands. We have been happy using the company’s solutions. Then, in 2019, we started to bring the Embed system to the holiday park operations.”
Embed’s smartTOUCH debit card readers are the benchmark in the FEC sector in terms of cashless payments for amusement games.
“As we have used the system in an increasing number of locations, we have needed certain customisations. Embed is so supportive in developing the system together with their customers and operators.
“We are now at the stage where we want to implement the Mobile Wallet, which we saw at IAAPA in Orlando in 2019. As a company, we always like to be ahead of technical development. We want to be pioneers in the European market, and this is where the Mobile Wallet comes in.”
The Mobile Wallet
The Mobile Wallet represents the next generation of cashless systems. Comprising a virtual game card that can be added to the Apple Wallet (IOS platform) and Google Pay (Android platform), it can be used seamlessly to play games. It is the only FEC business solution that is Apple IOS and Google Android compliant and approved.
With no app to download, customers can be up and running quickly.
A cardholder simply registers their game card on the Embed Mobile Portal. This immediately gives them details of their game card, such as balance information and ticket counts. The customer can then add the virtual game card to their Mobile Wallet. This enables them to tap and reload their wallet without leaving the game.
Driving return visits
Operators can then drive return visits, and get to know customer behaviour, usage and spending habits.
“We are keen to use the Mobile Wallet,” says Tubée. “Firstly, because we are a technical pioneer in the arcade and leisure industry. And secondly, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are exploring how to be more hands-free. The customer will no longer have to buy and carry a play card: their mobile is always with them.
“Communication with the customer is easy through the Mobile Wallet, too. Our main communication is through social media – Instagram and Facebook. We do that for the Game State, Game Town and Game City. We can do a combination of that through the Mobile Wallet, while also pointing customers to different brands and locations we operate.”
Embed is giving away the Mobile Wallet for free as part of its COVID-19 Relief Act, alongside a Creative Marketing Toolkit. This toolkit is designed to help FEC operators drive adoption. It includes a range of materials, from FEC T-Shirts to instructions that include the dedicated FEC QR code. In short, everything an operator requires to expedite consumer usage.
Embed technology fuels growth during the pandemic
The Group has planned to continue its growth through the pandemic, opening stores and forging new partnerships. The expansion includes opening in the Hamleys store in Prague and Westfield Mall of the Netherlands:
“In January 2020, we had our planning and budget for 2020, 2021, and 2022. It consisted of planning for Gamestate, and the remodelling of Gametown and Gamecity.
“Then, of course, in March 2020, the first lockdowns came. For 15 months, we have been closed for over 50% of the time. Nevertheless, we managed to open up one Gamestate in 2020, and another, just recently, in 2021. We also remodelled seven Gametown and Gamecity locations.”
“One of these, [completed in 2020] is the Gamecity inside the Hamleys toy shop in Prague, one of the biggest toyshops in Europe.
“It was a nice achievement to partner up with the Hamleys brand. Partnering up with big brands in leisure and pleasure is the next step for us. The Hamleys in Prague could be could become one of many.
“Last March, we finished the Gamestate in Mall of the Netherlands, a Westfield mall. This could be the first of many if it leads to a partnership with Westfield. They have several big malls throughout Europe and malls in the UK.”
Coming back stronger
“We are a very healthy company from a financial perspective,” says Tubée. “This made it possible for us to continue with our plans during the lockdown. The holiday parks had some big refurbishments, and we were able to remodel our arcade into the Gametown model.
“Later, at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we had discussions with our construction partners who do the remodelling for us and also built the Gamestate. They were very supportive regarding financing and payment terms, which helped us to continue to work through our plans. The same goes for our game supplier partners.”
“If you are a healthy company in the arcade and leisure industry, you know that when you open your doors, cash will flow again. So it’s more about waiting to come through that difficult period. Once we are through, we will have very strong businesses. Stakeholders and business partners see it like that, so they are very supportive.
“Altogether, as we come out of lockdown we will open as a bigger and stronger company than we were in early 2020 when we first closed. So, we’re very happy.”
The pandemic brought about a transformative shift in technology. Scanning temperatures, QR-code check-ins and contactless transactions became the norm. Now, technology has taken its place as a fundamental lynchpin of the industry’s future.
Embed highlights elements of a successful strategy, including focusing on low-touch experiences, embracing automation, leveraging technology and streamlining communication.
As the landscape shifts, seeing changes in consumer behaviour and adapting the core business to meet evolving customer needs is key.
The identification of new opportunities being offered and the re-evaluation of the innovation initiative portfolio is crucial, to ensure resources are appropriately allocated. Innovation and evolution, as Roger Tubée’s account demonstrates, are the foundation stones of post-crisis growth.
Images courtesy of the Veltmeijer Group / Embed