Is it a good idea to offer free Wi-Fi to customers?

Many organisations are wary of offering free Wi-Fi on their premises. In this post aim to help businesses assess whether it a good idea to offer free Wi-Fi to customers.

Free Wi-fi Internet Symbol Shows Coverage by Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)For those of us who are still subject to relatively expensive mobile data service, free Wi-Fi can be a welcomed option especially when we are on the go.  Besides a handful of eateries, hotel lobbies, and some progressive businesses, a large cross-section of businesses and organisations across the region do not offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. Below are five considerations which aim to shed some light on the question, is it a good idea to offer free Wi-Fi to customers?

1.  Be clear on what Wi-Fi will do for the business

Although more organisations are providing their customer with Wi-Fi, it may not always profit them to offer that service just to follow the trend. Hence, it is prudent to consider and determine, among other things:

  • whether or not, or the extent to which, offering Wi-Fi would promote the business’ goals and objectives, and if it does,
  • how (or in what ways) would it foster those goals.

Customers will gain from having access to the Wi-Fi, but ultimately, it should be mutually beneficially to both the businesses and customers. The onus is on the organisation to ensure that it understands how offering Wi-Fi will strengthen it.

2.  The existing network many need to be re-designed to accommodate customer/public use

Should an organisation decide to offer Wi-Fi to its customers, it is likely that, at the very least, some adjustments will be needed to its existing network. Depending on factors such as, the size of the existing network, the bandwidth available, the physical area to be covered, corporate bandwidth needs, etc., they will influence the final network design and the associated costs. It is therefore recommended that expert assistance be secured to ensure that the organisation’s network properly accommodates its corporate needs (especially in terms or speed and security), but also provides its customers with the performance envisaged.

3.  Recognise that persons may use the Wi-Fi to comparison shop

In an earlier post, 6 ways your business can benefit from offering free Wi-Fi, we noted that “more retail stores were offering free Wi-Fi to help their customers comparison shop”. Many businesses might see this as a bad thing, and consider it a deterrent to offering Wi-Fi to their customers. However, the truth is that persons do, and will continue to comparison shop, and increasingly, they go online first, to check out the product details, read customer reviews and get an idea of the price.

When a customer is in a physical store, price alone might not be the sole determinant of a sale. Factors such as convenience, the reputation of the business, the service offers, along with other ways the organisation might distinguish itself from its competition, are also likely to be considered. The key objective, however, should be to keep customers in the store, which having Wi-Fi available could support.

4.  Increasingly consumers expect free Wi-Fi

The ever increasing range of features and capabilities of today’s mobile/cellular phones is making us, as users, increasingly reliant on the Internet in order to enjoy those services. As a result, especially where mobile data services are still expensive, such as in the Caribbean, access to open Wi-Fi networks is almost always welcomed.

The absence of free Wi-Fi can be somewhat off-putting especially when persons need to spend some time on an organisation’s premises, e.g. for meals, waiting for appointments, and at hotels. Furthermore, the presence of free Wi-Fi is increasingly becoming a consideration for certain purchases, such as hotel accommodation, especially when other providers are available.

5. There are opportunities to engage and message

Finally, it must be highlighted that offering Wi-Fi to customers does not have to be a passive undertaking. It can provide a range of opportunities to interact with and message them, but it requires careful thought, and the necessary systems through which to implement the desired engagement. Examples include:

  • advertising products, services, special promotion, etc.
  • providing additional details on products and services offered, e.g. through QR codes
  • integrating social networking elements, e.g.  Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, into the on-site experience
  • conducting surveys and other tools to monitor customer behaviour.

In summary, organisations can realise many benefits by offering free Wi-Fi to their customers. However, it is critical that they conduct their own internal assessments to ensure that the gains are clear, and that suitable strategies are created to achieve the desired goals.

 

Image credit:  Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

_____________

6 Comments

  • Of course, why not, as far as I know it cost nothing more, in that case why not be generous, give a little gain a lot. Jeannie.

  • Just as an addendum ( for, I don’t think, for those good points, I could have anything to add/subtract ), increasingly businesses, especially retailers, are now having “multichannel” offerings ie customers can buy products instore as well as on the dedicated online store.

    Structurally there are some specific products offered on either channel only. Now, imagine walking into a store for a specific product, that you need a bit of information before buying. Then finding out that product is offered online only.

    If the shop have Wi-Fi, the customer can be given information and graciously advised to use their smartphone to buy right there! What’s more fundamental, under those circumstances, is not so much the sale, but the knock-on effect that customer will effectively carry.

  • Businesses in the Caribbean, especially those that are involved in the tourism sector would be wise to provide free wi-fi to their customers. Particularly as this will most likely increase the amount of postings via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instragram, etc. As most of these will be images with location tagged, this will help to further raise the profile of these businesses and in turn draw more tourists to these destinations. So a win win all around!

  • WiFi as with other free services tend to attract free loaders and in effect draws out subsidy from situations where it can prove to be unproductive both economically and socially. i believe there should be no “free lunch” its got to cost something in cash or in kind. The challenge is to be ready to monetize all free loaders or gain something in kind from them (e,g more customers or new business opportunity i can explore to deliver to these would be hangers on). The rate of diminishing natural resources calls for a rethink of how we allocate resources and the value proposition involved in those allocations. A lot of the wasteful public lifestyles we are not trying so hard to reverse . as we become more environmentally and resource conscious were exacerbated by our previous indifference

    • Excellent point John. The freeloaders can overwhelm a system and limit the benefits an organisation, and even other customers, could realise. If that does happen, it can appear that there is little benefit to be gained from providing free Wi-Fi in the first place!

Comments are closed.