Study: Yes, There Are Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

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You may have thought about the benefits of offering free WiFi to your customers in your business. It makes sense when you consider the fact that consumers spend a great deal of time on their mobile devices. It also makes sense if your revenue depends on traffic through your door.

But do the benefits outweigh the costs of giving customers access? Does offering free WiFi attract new customers? Will they spend more? Will it give my business a competitive edge? We will answer those questions and more, citing multiple research studies to back up our conclusions.

Proven Stats from Multiple Studies

A number of research studies from around the globe tout the benefits of offering free WiFi in coffee shops, restaurants, bars, retail stores, or other consumer-facing businesses. These include studies from companies, universities, and research organizations. Each study examines the topic and lists one or more reasons you as a business owner should offer free WiFi.

9 Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

Small businesses today need every possible advantage to stay competitive. Do the benefits of offering free WiFi rank among them? Take a look at these nine benefits and judge for yourself whether free WiFi can help you attract customers and make more money.

1. Customer Loyalty will Increase

Customer loyalty is a key factor in any small business’s success. Several studies have shown that offering free WiFi will lead to increased loyalty.

For example, a doctoral thesis from Florida International University (FIU) student Jiyeon Jeon, Examining How Wi-Fi Affects Customers Loyalty at Different Restaurants: An Examination from South Korea, explored how offering free WiFi has on customer loyalty and retention in restaurant patrons. He found that WiFi access had a positive impact regardless of whether it was a coffee shop, fast-food, casual dining, or another type of venue.

Another study, The Impact of Wi-Fi Service in Restaurants on Customers’ Likelihood of Return to a Restaurant, from ResearchGate, revealed that tech-savvy patrons prefer (and will return to) a restaurant or cafe that offers free WiFi service.

Study: Yes, There Are Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

2. Customers will Stay Longer at Your Establishment

One facet of increased loyalty is that customers will stay longer at an establishment with free WiFi—and more time spent equals more sales.

The FIU student thesis said that “restaurants are more likely to generate higher revenues when customers spend more time” and that “Wi-Fi has been found to act as a tool to encourage consumers to stay longer at restaurants.”

3. You will Gain a Competitive Edge

The 2017 Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report says people make purchasing decisions based on WiFI signal availability. It cites the following industries as examples of where WiFi is a deciding factor:

  • Hotel (71%)
  • Transport (46%)
  • Dining (46%)
  • Airline (46%)

A 2014 survey commissioned by Devicescape, a WiFi beacon network, of 400 small, consumer-facing businesses, discovered that providing WiFi also leads to increased foot traffic, yet another reason to make WiFi one of the amenity services offered.

Study: Yes, There Are Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

4. Customers Spend More Money at your Business

According to marketing technology firm BazaarVoice, customers consult their mobile device to conduct product research and read customer reviews before making an in-store purchase. Advertising research firm, On Device Research, found that 60% of survey respondents use their mobile devices in-store to research products and prices before making a purchase.

What are they researching?

  • 34% compare prices
  • 23% use email or social networks
  • 17% look at product reviews
  • 16% check product specifications
  • 16% scan barcodes to compare prices
  • 5% buy items through their mobile device
  • 16% look for mobile discount codes or vouchers

Such ROBO (research online, buy offline) behavior is a force multiplier in consumer spending activity. The On Device Research study said that over a third of the customers purchased the product in the store, while 14% chose a different store, and 20% decided to buy via their desktop, laptop, or mobile phone.

The bottom line: When free WiFi is available, the greater the ease of access and the more money customers spend.

5. Your Online Audience Will Increase

Audience growth is another one of the many benefits offering free WiFi gives businesses.

Case in point, the On Device Research study stated that when customers are logged onto the store’s WiFi, 74% would be happy for the company to send them text messages or emails with promotional offers. You also increase this audience by providing Facebook WiFi so they can feel more familiar and secure with the service.

Study: Yes, There Are Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

6. Customers will be more Informed

Providing business information is one more way free access makes potential customers happy. As On Device Research said, 16% of consumers look for mobile discount codes or vouchers, and 34% compare prices before purchasing.

7. Customers will Feel More Confident to Dine Alone

Telecompaper, a UK telecom industry publication, cited research from O2 Wifi, a company that offers free WiFi services, which said the availability of free Wifi in cafes, bars, and restaurants means that “Brits are no longer embarrassed to dine alone.”

More than half (53%) of respondents say they are now “happy to eat and drink alone” so long as they have internet access to check email, connect with friends, and look up menu items, the research showed. Six in ten people (58%) say public WiFi encourages them to spend time in public on their own; one in seven (14%) insist WiFi access is crucial for them to consider entering a cafe, sports bar, or restaurant; and one in ten base their dining experience on internet network availability.

8. You Can Collect Customer Data and Improve Your Marketing Efforts

As a business owner, it’s essential to know as much about your customers as possible. The greater the knowledge, the better you can cater to their needs and wants. Increased customer tracking is yet another way offering free WiFi in your establishment can benefit.

Many WiFi services providers enable you to collect customer data. One such provider, Beambox, citing CMO Council data, said that 56% of social media users will log in using their social media profiles in exchange for a customized brand experience.

When people log on to your WiFi network connection, they give you their contact details, something that’s hard to come by due to customers’ desire for privacy and security. Along with that information comes permission to market and advertise your products and services. And this makes WiFi marketing another tool for engaging with your customers.

Study: Yes, There Are Benefits of Offering Free WiFi

9. Customer Satisfaction Will Increase if You Offer Free WiFi

Not only will loyalty among customers increase due to free WiFi but also their satisfaction. (And we know that the more satisfied your customers are, the more likely they are to tell their friends.)

A report from Systemagic, a hospitality industry IT firm, said that “free and high-speed WiFi, together with good connectivity in terms of bandwidth, are powerful tools for hotels to increase customer satisfaction.”

The report stated that business and leisure travelers value free guest access over amenities, such as complimentary breakfast or free parking. Here is a breakdown of the statistics:

Leisure travelers:

  • 25% Free WiFi
  • 22% Free breakfast
  • 15% Free parking
  • 10% Swimming pool

Business travelers:

  • 49% Free wifi
  • 14% Free breakfast
  • 11% proximity to mass transit, transportation, and shops
  • 6% Comfortable work chair and desk

10. Enhance Customer Experience with WiFi-Based Services

Free WiFi opens doors to a range of WiFi-based services that can significantly elevate the customer experience. These services can include:

  • WiFi-Based Ordering Systems: In cafes or restaurants, implement systems where customers can order directly from their devices. This reduces wait times and improves service efficiency.
  • Interactive Store Maps: For retail businesses, offer WiFi-enabled store maps to help customers navigate your store more efficiently, enhancing their shopping experience.

11. Use WiFi Analytics for Business Insights

WiFi analytics can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and patterns. Use this data to:

  • Track Foot Traffic: Analyze the busiest times in your store and adjust staffing and inventory accordingly.
  • Understand Customer Preferences: Use WiFi log-in data to learn about your customers and tailor your marketing strategies to match their interests.

12. Boost Social Media Engagement

Encourage customers to check in at your location or share their experiences on social media in exchange for free WiFi access. This can:

  • Increase Online Visibility: Each check-in or share acts as a personal recommendation, enhancing your business’s online presence.
  • Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Positive social media engagement can influence potential customers and broaden your reach.

13. Offer Targeted Promotions and Personalized Experiences

With free WiFi, you can create personalized experiences for your customers by offering:

  • Targeted Promotions: Use the captive portal to offer special discounts or promotions to customers who log in to your WiFi.
  • Personalized Recommendations: Based on their browsing history, suggest products or services they might be interested in.

14. Enhance In-Store Entertainment and Information

Use WiFi to offer entertainment or additional information to your customers, such as:

  • In-Store Streaming Services: Provide access to music or video streaming services within your premises.
  • Product Information and Demos: Enable customers to access detailed product information or watch demo videos through your WiFi network.

15. Improve Customer Feedback and Interaction

Leverage the WiFi connection to enhance direct communication with your customers by:

  • Instant Feedback: Allow customers to provide immediate feedback about their experience through a simple online form accessible via your WiFi network.
  • Interactive Surveys and Polls: Conduct surveys or polls to gather customer opinions and preferences.

16. Strengthen Security and Privacy

While offering free WiFi, ensure robust security protocols to protect your customers’ data and privacy. This includes:

  • Secure Network: Implement strong encryption and security measures to safeguard user data.
  • Privacy Assurance: Clearly communicate your privacy policies and how you handle user data.

17. Community Building and Event Hosting

Use your WiFi-enabled space to host community events or workshops, which can:

  • Attract New Customers: Events can draw in people who may not have visited your business otherwise.
  • Build a Community Around Your Brand: Regular events can foster a sense of community, making your business a local hub.

18. Integrate with Loyalty Programs

Combine your free WiFi offering with your loyalty program to encourage repeat business:

  • Loyalty Points for WiFi Use: Offer points or rewards to customers for using your WiFi service.
  • Special Offers for Loyal Customers: Provide exclusive WiFi access to premium content or special deals for loyal customers.

19. Utilize for Employee Training and Development

Your business’s WiFi can also be a resource for staff training:

  • Online Training Modules: Enable staff to access training materials and courses through your WiFi network.
  • Streamline Operations: Use WiFi to improve internal communication and operational efficiency.

20. Implement Location-Based Marketing and Services

Free WiFi can be a powerful tool for location-based marketing and personalized services. This strategy can enhance customer engagement and provide unique experiences directly related to their in-store location. Here’s how it can be utilized:

  • Push Notifications for In-Store Promotions: Use WiFi to send real-time notifications about special offers or discounts when customers are near specific areas of your store. For instance, if a customer is browsing in the shoe section, they could receive a notification about a promotion on shoe accessories.
  • Location-Based Product Information: Provide customers with detailed information about products they are near. When connected to your WiFi, customers can access multimedia content like videos, user manuals, or customer reviews related to products in their immediate vicinity.
  • Personalized Shopping Assistance: Implement a system where customers can request assistance or more information about a product through their mobile device. This service can be particularly useful in large stores where finding help can sometimes be challenging.
  • Enhanced In-Store Experience: Utilize location-based data to optimize store layout and product placement based on the most frequented areas. This approach can improve the overall shopping experience and increase sales.

By embracing these strategies, the provision of free WiFi in your business becomes more than just a courtesy – it transforms into a strategic tool that not only delights your customers but also contributes significantly to your business’s growth and evolution.

How can I make free WiFi successful?

After reviewing all the benefits of offering free internet access that you as a business owner can accrue, your decision should be a no brainer. You may be asking yourself how your company has gotten along without it? Customers appreciate the convenience; they stay longer and spend more; it increases loyalty and satisfaction; you can gather valuable data on customers to help improve your products and services—the list of reasons is endless! So how do you go about setting it up? It involves just a few steps:

  • Establish a dedicated internet connection. Even if you have an internal WiFi for your employees, it’s necessary to set up a separate channel for customer use. Your internet provider can take care of that for you.
  • Don’t skimp on speed. The faster your internet connection, the more your customers will like it… and you!
  • Set up a password. You may be less concerned about password protecting your free WiFi channel than you are about the internal network connection employees use. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to set a password. Otherwise, you may get “loiterers” leeching onto your network without purchasing anything.
  • Create a captive portal. When your customers log on to your network, it’s a good idea to have a landing page (called a “captive portal”) that requires their name and email address to gain access. The screen can also include coupon codes, discounts, special promotions, and other incentives for marketing purposes.
Steps to Make Free WiFi SuccessfulKey Considerations
Establish a dedicated internet connection.Set up a separate channel for customer use to ensure reliable and efficient internet access.
Don't skimp on speed.Opt for a fast internet connection to enhance customer experience and encourage prolonged stays.
Set up a password.Implement a password to prevent unauthorized access and ensure that only paying customers connect.
Create a captive portal.Design a captive portal that requires customer information for access and offers marketing incentives.

Conclusion: Embracing the Power of Free WiFi for Your Business

In today’s digital age, the role of free WiFi in enhancing customer experiences and driving business success cannot be understated. As we’ve delved into the numerous benefits of offering complimentary internet access, it becomes evident that the advantages far outweigh any concerns. This conclusion is reinforced by a wealth of research studies spanning various industries and locations.

By providing free WiFi, businesses can tap into a plethora of advantages that shape customer behavior, loyalty, and spending patterns. The compiled evidence showcases a comprehensive range of benefits, from increased customer loyalty and extended dwell times to gaining a competitive edge and fostering more informed decision-making. Moreover, the availability of free WiFi creates a platform for deeper customer engagement, enabling data collection for targeted marketing efforts and ultimately amplifying customer satisfaction.

As highlighted by the diverse studies and statistics, businesses that prioritize offering free WiFi create an environment conducive to enhancing customer experiences. With the potential to attract new patrons, increase customer loyalty, and drive higher spending, the decision to implement free WiFi becomes a strategic choice that aligns with modern consumer preferences. Furthermore, the actionable steps provided offer a practical guide to successfully establishing a seamless and secure free WiFi service that not only benefits customers but also empowers businesses to harness valuable insights for continuous improvement and growth.

In essence, embracing the power of free WiFi isn’t just about connectivity; it’s about delivering a holistic and enriching experience that resonates with today’s tech-savvy consumers. As technology continues to shape our interactions and expectations, offering free WiFi stands as a testament to a business’s commitment to innovation, convenience, and customer-centricity. In a world where connectivity defines our daily lives, free WiFi isn’t just a service—it’s a strategic investment in the present and future success of your business.

Image: Depositphotos

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Paul Chaney Paul Chaney is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. He covers industry news, including interviews with executives and industry leaders about the products, services and trends affecting small businesses, drawing on his 20 years of marketing knowledge. Formerly, he was editor of Web Marketing Today and a contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce.