The Advent of Free Wi-Fi
Chances are, you’ve used free Wi-Fi. Whether you’re waiting for your flight at the airport or ordering your favorite latte at Starbucks, free Wi-Fi is usually available and hard to pass up. As customers get more and more accustomed to using Free Wi-Fi everywhere, as a business owner, it makes sense to utilize that service to increase business growth. Obviously there’s a fine line between ethical customer engagement and just being obnoxious and invasive. With any service, there’s always room for abuse. But used correctly it can be a very valuable marketing tool to help you engage your customers by interactions other than ones that are static in-store.
What Are Wi-Fi Marketing Services?
At a high level, Wi-Fi Marketing Services can help you engage customers when they sign in to your Free Wi-Fi. When I first researched this topic, there were only a handful of companies providing this service. Now I can find 10 or more across the globe. Think about the billions of ad dollars generated by Google Search, Facebook and YouTube. Essentially a service was popularized and ads were brought in later to monetize the platform. These companies are hoping to cash in on the same trend and this time it’s Free Wi-Fi.
How Do We Monetize Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi Marketing Services can help you monetize free Wi-Fi in many ways. I’ll talk about each way briefly below.
1. Free “slow” Wi-Fi, paid for “faster” Wi-Fi.
This is similar to what you’ve probably seen at hotels and airports, where you can purchase a faster bandwidth profile for a charge on your credit card. There’s also a version called couponing, where a business owner can create a ticket with a password that enables the higher profile when the customer uses the provided login credentials. This way is very popular overseas in Asia.
2. Captive Portal with benefits.
When you connect to free Wi-Fi, you’re often greeted with a webpage where you have to agree to a “Terms of Service” or use a Social Login like Facebook, Google, etc… to gain access. That page is called a Captive Portal because it essentially holds you captive until you perform a desired action. This action can also include watching a video or advertisement, redirecting the customer to install a mobile app, and many others. In the past, customizing the Captive Portal was fairly basic, allowing to upload a Brand Logo and inputting text into a preset template. Today, Wi-Fi Marketing Services give you built-in tools for full webpage customization to really showcase your brand, without needing any html coding experience.
3. Visitor Statistics and Analytics
Social logins not only make it easy for a customer to gain access to free Wi-Fi, allowing them to connect without having to create new credentials, but it gives the business operator a treasure trove of data about those customers. This data can then be used for more targeted promotions and advertising even after the customer has left the premise. This engagement helps to bring customers back to the business. For example, you can create a promotional coupon to be sent to all customers that haven’t been back to the business in the last 7 days. And of course you can use these historical statistics to analyze how well the business is doing, tracking total number of customers per day/month and conversion rates on promotions.
How Big is This Business?
Just to give you an idea of how big this business is, look at this profile of a company called Purple.
They work as third party service to any Wi-Fi Access Point hardware vendor, it’s obviously in their best interests to be hardware agnostic to promote usage and adoption. And as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is one of many companies in a fast growing industry. It will be interesting how the landscape shakes out in the next few years. There could be consolidation and hardware partnerships, similar to how all the Enterprise Networking companies gobbled up Cloud Managed Wi-Fi companies. Cisco bought Meraki for $1.2 billion, HP bought Aruba for $2.7 billion, Extreme Networks bought Aerohive for $272 million and Juniper Networks bought Mist for $405 million. The future will be interesting indeed.