Free Wi-Fi: Good for Your Customers, Good for You.

Colin Ashmore
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On: 22 Sep 2016
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Customer Wi-Fi

As an increasing number of shops and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi to their customers, those who don’t risk alienating theirs, losing business and missing out on valuable marketing opportunities. However, with fierce competition on price and increasing pressure to cut costs, is now a good time to be giving something away for free?

Shops and restaurants welcome potential customers with open arms. There’s no entry fee to walk through the doors. So why would you take a different approach to Wi-Fi – either charging customers to use it or not offering it at all?

In the retail sector in particular, your Wi-Fi offering is of significant importance. 80% of shoppers use their phone in-store – often to price-check goods against other retailers’ websites. Retailers who do not offer Wi-Fi or charge for access to it may think they are onto a winner by making price comparisons more difficult but in reality, charging for Wi-Fi will lose the goodwill of the visitor, and mean missing out on opportunities for on-the-spot sales promotion and upselling.

Yes, the benefits of giving customers free Wi-Fi are far from one sided. Having a customer registered on a Wi-Fi network while they’re in-store provides unparalleled instant access and unmatched marketing opportunities for the retailer. Take the price comparison problem. Not offering Wi-Fi is not going to stop the customer seeking out prices from other retailers using their own mobile data. And if they find a better price, the chances are the sale will be lost. However, if the customer is logged-on to the in-store network, it gives the retailer the means to address the issue there and then with an instant price match promise or a 10% one-day-only offer, for example.

The ability to push offers from the splash page can also help to increase customer spend, or dwell time in-store. Perhaps a couple comes in for clothes for her, but he receives a 30 minute flash sale opportunity on men’s clothing. It’s a better way for him to spend his time than standing around outside a changing room. And it’s an effective way to persuade him to spend his money. Even if he’s not in the mood to shop, a discount voucher for a coffee and croissant in the café will make him feel welcome, and make him happier to stay longer while his partner spends even more.

Having a customer registered on a network also provides an opportunity for gathering highly valuable data. For an individual this can range from their email address and demographic information, right down to the type of device they are using. On a larger scale, it can cover everything from the number of network users per week, to the typical route through the store, to the customer age demographic at specific times of day.

Making public Wi-Fi easy and safe, for everyone.

Some network operators limit free access to only their own customers, but Three operates an “everyone is welcome” policy. No matter which network the customer is with, they can register with Three and gain access to any Three-operated Wi-Fi network in any store, café, hotel or other outlet where it’s offered. There’s no need to register again for each network, and the experience will be consistent – though “fronted” by the relevant retailer’s splash page. Three has seen significant growth in the number of users registered this year, with a further increase of 30% expected over the next three months.

An advantage of having a free Wi-Fi network operated by a major provider is reassurance for customers and retailers. The Three Wi-Fi solution, for example, has a strict content filtering policy which goes far beyond the minimum legal requirements. Users can be sure they won’t be exposed to unsuitable or unsafe content and retailers can be sure that there will be no content provided which is unsuitable for – or harmful to – their brand.

If the perceived cost is what is holding your business back from offering free Wi-Fi, consider the proven return on investment. It has been shown to increase the time and money spent in premises, while the insight gained into customer demographics, behaviours and preferences is valuable research that enables more effective marketing communications.

Getting something for nothing has always been rewarding. Now giving something for nothing is too.

Three provide this service across some of the biggest brands in Ireland and the UK, where strategic marketing decisions and marketing communications are enabled by the Three Wi-Fi solution (see McDonalds case study here).

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