Wi-Fi is now more than a customer service - how to get wired and earn for your business
There's a growing trend for businesses to increase their revenue streams through offering a free Wi-Fi service to customers. Lora O'Brien discovers how easy it can be
When your customers leave a business review on Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Facebook, you want it to be positive, right? How about this real customer review…
"The big problem I had was the shoddy Wi-Fi. It was the worst I had experienced in several years... A massive let down in quite a nice hotel."
Not really the best for your business, is it?
These days, it makes sense for businesses to provide free customer Wi-Fi - restaurants, bars, hotels and shopping centres are all lining up to keep us connected.
It's important to keep your customers connected, so they have instant access for that marketing gold dust, the peer review, by sharing your social-media messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, we have reached the point where there are as many mobile subscribers as there are people on the planet: around seven billion and rising.
People are using their mobile devices for books, film, gaming, music, and of course, social media. Businesses have a golden opportunity to turn browsers into buyers, and readers into reviewers, by simply providing the fast, free internet connections we've come to expect.
But isn't it expensive?
There is a cost involved, and while some customers may pay to upgrade for faster speeds and better quality, most will coast the free service.
It can be difficult to set up and manage a Wi-Fi network, so businesses can turn to a managed Wi-Fi service to sort them out.
Ben Killeen, managing director of Meath- based SenSys Technology, says: "Once Irish businesses know about our SenSys Wi-Fi solution, we find that owners and managers can see the definite return on investment and the commercial benefit of providing free Wi-Fi to their customers. Until recent times, customer Wi-Fi has been seen as a cost that can be avoided."
How about making some money back though, by setting up your system to capture customer data?
Data analytics is the perfect way to learn more about your prospective customers. You can find out how long your customers spend on your premises, and pinpoint their exact location. You can figure out if your product placement and merchandising campaigns are working. With such an accurate user location (typically within three to five metres or less) your business can specifically target advertising, or sell that space to other companies who are a good fit for that location.
Usually, people have to deliberately opt-in to use the Wi-Fi, making customers much more receptive to advertising than the usual spam cynic side of us would normally allow.
Large American companies such as MGM Resorts offer their customers free Wi-Fi with the added bonus of an easily downloadable app. Guests can find their way around within large sites - but the app also allows customers to find a restaurant, nightclub, or show, based on location and other search criteria, while giving step-by-step directions for how to get there.
They can then offer targeted coupons and special offer deals, and of course, those restaurants, nightclubs and shows would pay a premium advertising fee for their spotlight position right on the mobile devices of potential customers.
The data and analytics that become available through providing a managed Wi-Fi system are impressive, whether a business chooses to utilise the data themselves, or package it up for sale to a third party for marketing, planning and operations use.
Information on customers' spending habits and even movement patterns through stores is a valuable resource. Reporting in 2012, Cisco noted: "Retailers are also experimenting with using Wi-Fi enabled check-out and payments to streamline the check-out process and make it more customer-friendly. Mobility gives retailers an opportunity to improve store operations, reduce costs, and improve the shopping experience to make them more competitive with online alternatives.
"Service providers can create compelling new business models and sources of revenue and business benefits to readily justify investments in building robust Wi-Fi networks and operational capabilities."
Ben Killeen has a way to make it even easier to start monetising your business Wi-Fi.
"We have found that SMEs in Ireland prefer not to have to pay a capital upfront cost for their technology and wait for the ROI from marketing, customer analytics and brand awareness.
"So we have provided a solution that preserves business cash flow. SenSys LeaseCare is where we provide businesses with the latest and greatest Wi-Fi technology - with support and maintenance - for a fixed fee per month, with no upfront capital or cost.
"This essentially means that the customer satisfaction, marketing and brand awareness comes from the technology before having to pay for it."
So, there's no excuse not to get your customers connected, and start earning money from Wi-Fi.
Sunday Indo Business