MarTech Interview with Andrea Calcagno CEO and Co-founder of Cloud4Wi

In a world that is rapidly moving toward digital dominance, how can offline stores stay competitive?

If retailers want to engage customers and encourage them to return to the shop floor, they need to start bridging the gap that exists between physical retail and digital commerce. 

1. Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get into entrepreneurship?
I’ve spent the last two decades operating in the retail, tech vendor, and telco-media markets, building professional connections with global executives of top Fortune 500 companies.
My career started at Telecom Italia Labs in the beautiful city of Turin, where I performed advanced research and development activities on mobile access networks. It was an exciting time for the industry, where we received multiple international patents on mobile broadband architectures.
Prior to that, I earned a master’s degree – summa cum laude – in telecommunications engineering from the University of Pisa.
My co-founding partner and I decided to start Cloud4Wi when we saw an emerging need in the market that nobody was fulfilling. Put simply, we wanted to create a solution that would make it easier for businesses to turn Wi-Fi into an asset that drives business outcomes. It was this challenge I think that lit the entrepreneurial spark in me.

2. What was the idea behind starting Cloud4Wi?
Since the very beginning, we understood that brick-and-mortar retailers were missing a huge opportunity to connect with their customers. Online businesses have a range of data points from which to create customer profiles – click-through rates, cart abandonment, website behavior, and more. These profiles can be used to create compelling, targeted campaigns or personalize customer journeys, boosting sales and engagement. But what about businesses with a physical shop floor?
If physical retail venues could harvest data in a comparable way to their online counterparts, such as stores visited or visitor frequency, they could build up useful customer profiles in order to build similarly engaging campaigns. Retailers that have both an online and offline presence could also use this solution to bridge the gap that traditionally exists between the two, allowing them to create 360-degree profiles of their customers. For instance, if a customer that already had the mobile app entered a physical version of that store, they could be targeted with relevant push notifications that continued their journey with that brand.
All of this was possible with clever use of Wi-Fi technology. Most retailers already had a Wi-Fi infrastructure in place, but they lacked the technology to fully leverage it to their advantage. Cloud4Wi was designed to fix that.

3. Were there any challenges in the initial stages of the organization?
Of course. I think every start-up has challenges. Finding the right talent was an immediate challenge for us. We needed a team of talented, motivated employees who could help develop our ideas and make them a reality.
One of the things we also really wanted to do was turn our early clients into advocates, to help grow the business. If we could find clients that bought our solution, loved it and then became evangelists for it, we knew we’d be able to keep growing the business. That was probably the biggest challenge in those early days.

4. How would you describe the evolution of local marketing in the past few years?
Well, Amazon has changed the game entirely, hasn’t it? The purchasing experience, the convenience, what customers expect – it’s all changed dramatically in the past decade or so. The thing is, Amazon isn’t really a retailer – it’s a data company. They know so much about their customers because they’re very clever with data analytics and machine learning.
This has set a trend, not with retailers, but with customers themselves. Customers now want this tailored, convenient experience wherever they go – including physical stores. We think retailers have a golden opportunity here to seize location-based marketing and level the playing field with e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Wi-Fi already plays a key role in the in-store experience for customers, for example powering the scan-and-go apps, so why not take full advantage of the technology? If customers download the brand mobile app and don’t mind their location data being used to enhance their shopping experience, retailers can use Wi-Fi to identify when and how long customers enter their stores, using previously gathered data to tailor their experience and suggest relevant offers.

5. What are the pain points that customers usually approach you with?
Although we tend to serve clients in very distinct industries, they often share the same pain points. Our clients want to create personalized customer journeys and learn more about how their customers behave in-store, creating 360-degree profiles that allow for more personalized marketing opportunities. They want to be able to reveal real-time moments in the customer journey to trigger hyper-relevant offers.
So that’s what we offer. We provide a cloud-based platform that leverages retailers’ existing Wi-Fi infrastructure so they can harness customer location data and improve their bottom line. Our platform is 100% consent-based and currently empowers retailers such as Albertson, Prada, Guess and RaiaDrogasil by supercharging their Wi-Fi. When RaiaDrogasil, Latin America’s largest pharmacy vendor, implemented our solution they saw an online revenue increase of 235%.

6. Is there a need for organizations to reimagine their marketing strategies to optimize customer experience?
Oh absolutely. Having a physical store alone simply isn’t enough to engage customers in 2022. It’s one thing to have excellent products and offers, but another entirely to wrap them up and deliver them as part of a continuous and engaging customer experience.

If retailers want to engage customers and encourage them to return to the shop floor, they need to start bridging the gap that exists between physical retail and digital commerce.

7. What is the role of audience data in designing product marketing campaigns?
Successful online businesses such as Amazon have already demonstrated that the more data businesses have on their customers, the more accurate and impactful their marketing campaigns will be. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to go a similar way, using all the digital tools at their disposal to learn as much as possible about their customers’ behavior both inside the store as well as throughout their digital journey outside of the store.
By leveraging such data, retailers can build real-time segmented audiences that boost marketing campaign conversion.

8. According to you, what is the crucial factor for organizations to thrive in today’s marketing environment?
The most important thing retailers need to think about these days is the unavailability of third-party data. Unlike online businesses, they simply don’t have easy access to a readymade pool of third-party data from which to grow their marketing campaigns. They’re starting from scratch, so they need a way of growing their own first-party database.
Another crucial factor is to make sure that marketing is omnichannel. Brick-and-mortar stores that have an omnichannel strategy and create personalized experiences are more likely to succeed in the market. According to Shopify, retailers experience more than a 190% increase in revenue when they sell on more than one channel, and some 56% of shoppers visit a store before making a purchase online. Going back to my first point, that means having a deep knowledge of your customer base is a crucial factor. Today, customers have an abundance of choice and a limited attention span, which means businesses have less margin for error when it comes to reaching out.

9. Does customer segmentation matter in product marketing?
Very much so, given the importance of providing the kind of personalized experience we’ve been talking about. Customer segmentation is the result of knowing who your customers are down to the maximum detail of their online and offline behaviors, past choices, preferences and even predicting their wants and needs in the future.

10. What are your plans for expansion and growth? How do you see the company and the industry in the coming years?
Cloud4Wi is investing a lot in Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming technologies that promise to streamline and simplify the Wi-Fi onboarding experience. Those industry standard-based technologies enable customers to go online automatically and securely, without fumbling for passwords and credentials.
This will be a boon for retailers who already have public Wi-Fi networks set up and ready to go. If customers can be onboarded to those networks seamlessly, it opens the door to more data and the creation of more compelling location-aware g experiences. Consent, of course, will always be crucial.

11. Could you tell us more about your work culture, and what makes Cloud4Wi’s culture unique?
I’d be happy to. Cloud4Wi is quite unique and unlike any other Dumbo (NYC) startup I can think of. With proud Italian roots, we’ve created a fun Italian-American work environment mixing Italian values with American execution.
Our team is dynamic, and full of bright individuals. We’re passionate about what we’re building and are looking for people who want to make an impact. Our core values guide everything we do. In no specific order, they are…
● Innovation – we’re passionate about making a tangible difference for our clients and their customers. Instead of rolling out solutions from one customer to the next, we take the time to look at all improvements that can be made. A good solution is one that evolves and changes with different customers and use cases.
● Teamwork – Our technology is important, but it’s nothing with the teams that make it. We have a focus on teamwork at Cloud4Wi, bringing people together from different areas of the business to help solve problems and overcome challenges.
● Equality – We think it’s very important to create an inclusive and diverse environment where people can be themselves and bring all their expressive passion to work with them.
● Integrity – Trust isn’t given, it’s earned. We take this approach with customers as well as stakeholders, ensuring that our actions are responsible, honest and lead to good relationships.

12. What is one thing that motivates you?
An entrepreneur has a mission to build and bring value for stakeholders, and that mission drives every decision I make. Everything leads to that., looking after customers, guiding the team, and continuously earning trust of investors- it all comes back to building value for stakeholders.

13. What movie or book has inspired you recently?
One of my favorite entrepreneurs is Ben Horowitz. I love his story, and his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” is, for me, a daily guide. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Often, any decision, even the wrong decision, is better than no decision.”

Andrea Calcagno, CEO, and Co-founder of Cloud4Wi
Andrea Calcagno started his career at Telecom Italia Labs in Turin, where he performed advanced research and development activities on mobile access networks, receiving international patents on mobile broadband architectures. he holds a master's degree (summa cum laude) in telecommunications engineering from the University of Pisa.

Cloud4Wi helps enterprises unlock the power of physical locations.
With our cloud platform, enterprises can offer a seamless, secure WiFi connectivity and unleash innovative location-aware experiences, while driving business outcomes – without any additional workload for IT staff.

With over 150 million mobile users connected across 70,000 locations in more than 150 countries, Cloud4Wi is the trusted partner of leading global enterprises –including Albertsons, Aldi, Burger King, Campari Group, Carmila (Carrefour Group), Guess, Gruppo FS Italiane, Prada Group, Puma, Raia Drogasil and Valentino– to drive business outcomes.

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