Written by: USB Security Team
As a small business owner, it is important to routinely identify ways to give customers the best possible experience while visiting your establishment. This can entail offering weekly deals and specials or hosting events and fundraisers on-site. Recently, many small businesses have started expanding their business by offering free Wi-Fi access to their customers.
Offering free Wi-Fi access to customers has proven to increase profit and gain customer loyalty. In fact, as many as 62 percent of businesses reported that customers spent more time in their establishment when free Wi-Fi access was available, and 50 percent spent more money while there. If you’re contemplating whether this type of offering is right for you and your business, there are few initial questions to mull over to help you make your decision.
Would your customers appreciate free Wi-Fi access? Think through if customers would appreciate being able to entertain themselves or continue to work while they wait.
How would they use free Wi-Fi? Depending on your business, would customers just scroll leisurely on social media sites via mobile devices while they wait for their coffee to-go, or would they work on their laptops while they wait on their car to finish being serviced?
Would customers use it? You know your customers better than anyone else, and while predicting human behavior can be quite a gamble, you can make an educated estimate as to the likelihood of your customer using the free Wi-Fi.
Still not convinced on the concept of offering free Wi-Fi to customers? Here are four main benefits of offering free Wi-Fi access to customers:
1. Marketing Enhancement
Business owners are constantly looking for new and creative ways to promote their companies, and offering free Wi-Fi access is another tool not commonly thought of, but often beneficial to the business marketing plan. Certain Wi-Fi providers allow businesses to create custom website landing pages to share real-time offers and business updates to customers, in addition to a custom business Wi-Fi network name to coincide with the business’ name or known-for services and/or products. That customized network name may help alert nearby potential customers to your presence.
Taking it a step further, offering free Wi-Fi allows customers to do a little of the business marketing too. Allowing your customers to “check in” via their social media platforms on your free Wi-Fi service means they’ll be more likely to share their location, take a photo and even tag your establishment. Friends trust their friends, family trusts family, so when they have a wonderful experience at your business and post about it online you’ve already succeeded in creating repeat customers and possibly gaining new ones.
2. More Time Spent in Your Establishment
Your business type determines the amount of time your customers spend there. If you’re an auto shop, customers might be waiting on their car for several hours, but if you’re a smaller retail shop, your customers might only be scrolling while they wait in line to purchase or taking photos in the dressing rooms in their new attire.
From minimal logins to all day usage, Wi-Fi can make all the difference in customer experience. Free business Wi-Fi access helps customers stay productive in the busy and technology-driven world, distracts them from services that might be taking longer than expected and ultimately keeps them happy and entertained while they wait. It’s no secret – delighted customers make happy business owners.
3. Profitability Possibilities
Most businesses’ main concern about offering free Wi-Fi are the customers who come to their establishment just to use the Wi-Fi and leave – commonly known as “squatters.” A valid concern, but it can – and usually does – end up being quite the opposite. When offered Wi-Fi access at no cost, a customer is more likely to spend more time at your establishment and again depending on your business type, will eventually need a snack or beverage or want to browse what’s available for purchase.
So, while their original intent was simply to use the free Wi-Fi, the customer may make a purchase because of the deals and services promoted through your business Wi-Fi landing page.
4. Be Competitive
Whether a business offers free Wi-Fi or not has become an extremely common way for customers to filter their choices, as many customers will choose to only visit establishments that offer free Wi-Fi. This means you may really be losing business and certainly losing in the competitive edge arena by not offering it.
While there are several great benefits to offering free Wi-Fi at your business, there are also some potential risks you need to be aware of. Technological advancements happen quickly in the world today, but even with the most advanced technology to date, cybersecurity risks can never be ruled out. Both your business and your customers can be affected, so it’s extremely important to practice cyber security awareness and be aware of potential threats and issues.
Network failures and insecurities can be a huge problem. Before you offer free Wi-Fi at your business, be sure to check with your internet service provider about the ability to provide a safe and reliable connection. Customers are accustomed to – and certainly expect – reliability and security, so should their personal information get hacked, it can cost your business and customers money.
Don’t try to set up your new, public business Wi-Fi on your own. Work with a qualified company to lessen cyber security threats and ensure that the network you use for your business is not accessible from the wi-fi hotspot network, and that security controls are in place to protect customers from snooping while they are on the business wi-fi network. This will ensure all proper firewalls, and encryption and protection services are installed correctly. Cybersecurity hacks are still a risk, so this is imperative to avoiding any potential hackers from stealing personal information from employees and customers.
Customers may try to abuse the free service. It wouldn’t be the first time a customer went to a spot outside of their home to illegally download images and music, pirated media, etc., using public Wi-Fi. Why run the risk of shutting down their own service when they can shut down yours and still get the downloads they were after? To combat this, and ultimately avoid the blockage of service for other customers, business owners should work with the internet service provider to block all known torrent sites, or websites with any certificate or safety issues. Requiring a password for Wi-Fi access is strongly recommended, as is changing the password frequently. Businesses may also want to consider limiting access to their hours of operation in order to prevent someone nearby from using the hotspot as their personal network.
The end goal of offering free Wi-Fi to customers is to make their lives easier, while improving their perception of your business. No matter your business type or business size, there are advantages to offering this type of service free of charge to customers. You just have to do a little research – so get started today.