Why Offering Free WiFi to Your Customers is Wise

offering free wifi to customers

Growth-oriented business owners are always on the search for anything that can give them a competitive edge. That is why brick-and-mortar businesses that depend on foot traffic are increasingly investing in free and fast WiFi. They understand it is no longer an innovation but an expectation.

This in-depth guide will outline the benefits of offering free WiFi, dispel the myths, and explain how you can start leveraging its potential to grow your company.

Why Offering Free WiFi to Customers Is So Beneficial

If you are on the fence as to the many benefits of offering WiFi for free, the following reasons may prove it is a smart move.

Customers Will Stay Longer on Your Premises

One of the most significant advantages is that a wifi network increases the time spent on-premises. A Cox survey said that 62% of businesses pointed out customers spend more time in their facility or shop if the option is offered.

Free WiFi Will Attract New Customers

Free WiFi can also mean increased footfall. It is one of the ways businesses attract customers. Most people visit a site like Google Maps and Yelp to find local businesses, and wireless internet is one of the amenities customers look for.

Good WiFi Gives Customers a Better Experience

Customer experience must be top of mind for every business owner, especially those who serve the general public. Customers expect free access anytime and anywhere, and when they enter a place of business that does not offer it, the chances are they will leave to find one that does.

Free Wifi Can Increase Your Website Traffic and Online Presence

The more time customers spend at your place of business, the greater the likelihood they will engage with it. Enhance such activity by controlling the connection to set your business website as the homepage. That translates into more site visits, which you can use to collect customer data and target ads.

Excellent WiFi Connection Will Improve Your Online Ratings

You can improve your online ratings and reviews by offering WiFi. Not only will customers take the initiative to do that on their own, but you can also use a marketing software platform that prompts customers to submit ratings and reviews.

Free WiFi Will Differentiate You from Your Competitors

No longer are quality and price the only reasons people do business with certain companies. Many choose businesses based on which ones offer the service and which don’t. You gain a competitive advantage by providing fast, reliable internet for social networking, checking emails, online shopping, and surfing the web.

Free Wifi can Help you Gain Improved Search Engine Ranking

Google prioritizes mobile devices in its search algorithm and indexes content from Android and iOS apps. Setting up wireless connections can encourage customers to list your business on a few apps, thereby raising your search profile.

Debunking the Myths of Providing Free WiFi

Despite the apparent advantages, certain myths and perceived pitfalls keep business owners from taking the plunge.

Myth 1: Requires too Much Technical Support

WiFi equipment was quite expensive and difficult to operate when first introduced to the market. Nowadays, that is just the case. Business WiFi can be nearly as inexpensive and easy to set up as a home wireless network, requiring little technical support.

Myth 2: Offering WiFi Will Distract Employees

Some business owners and managers fear that by offering WiFi, employees will spend more time on social media and less doing their jobs. In truth, it is a value-add that employees can use to perform better.

Myth 3: Customers may Misuse WiFi

Some businesses are afraid of the security risks offering internet access points can pose, and rightly so. However, using encryption and password-protecting the network can reduce the risk.

There is also the concern customers to overstay their welcome, reducing table turn (in restaurants and coffee shops). You have control and can set session limits to discourage loitering.

Myth 4: Offering WiFi Is Expensive

Buying expensive equipment is no longer necessary. Your cable or internet service provider offers plans at a reasonable monthly price and will rent routers and modems for a small fee. Consider the benefits of increased loyalty and sales, and the cost becomes nominal.

How to Provide Free WiFi to Your Customers: 9 Steps for Sucess

Hopefully, by now, you are convinced that installing WiFi for customer engagement is a good business decision. How do you go about it? Follow these nine steps, and you will be up and running in no time.

1. Choose an Excellent Internet Service Provider (ISP)

The first and most crucial step is to choose a reliable ISP. You may have many options in your area, so do your research. Look at ratings and reviews, too. You don’t want to be stuck with an ISP that offers poor service.

2. Pick Your Service Plan

ISPs offer more than one plan. Choose one with the highest speed and largest bandwidth at a price point you can afford. If the speed or bandwidth is too low, customers may not consider your service offering a convenience but an annoyance.

3. Make Sure You Have the Necessary Equipment for Excellent Internet Access

The equipment you choose is just as important as the service provider. Even with the best internet connection, inadequate equipment will cause connectivity to suffer.

All you need is adequate cabling, a modem, and a router (or modem/router combo) to access your ISP’s connection. Also, consider access points. Putting the device in an area like a closet or backroom may not be the best choice to ensure a fast connection.

4. Set Up a Guest Network and Separate it from Your Business Wireless Network

Insolate your business WiFi by setting up a separate guest network. Many routers support the feature. Another option is to install a WiFi hotspot that is completely unconnected to the business network. A hotspot requires a separate route and modem.

To enable guest networking, connect to your router’s management interface, open a browser, and type the router’s IP address into the address box. (It will look something like this:

Your router will prompt you for a username and password to get to the administrative interface. Then, look for the Guest Network settings. Typically, you’ll find them under the Wireless Settings or in a dedicated Guest Network section.

Pick a network name, make sure access to your local network is turned off (if you have the option), and add a WPA2 password.

5. Set Up a Captive Portal

A captive portal is a web page that users see when they try to connect with your public WiFi, forcing them to log in using their name and email address. Once logged in, they can surf the web as usual.

Setting up such a portal varies based on your equipment. However, there are companies that offer WiFi platforms, which enable you to build robust captive portals to capture customer information for marketing purposes.

6. Make Sure the Connection Is Secure

Network security must always be a concern. Your customers’ data and your business data could be at risk.

Install security features that include a password specifically for patrons and encrypt your network with WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2), a security protocol designed to protect public networks.

Also, deploy Service Set Identifier (SSID) technology to allow guest use while keeping your business network walled off from customers.

7. Require Customers to Agree to Your Terms of Service Before Use

A Terms of Service Agreement is a set of regulations that users must agree to follow. This agreement helps to reduce abuse, ensures users acknowledge you own your content, limits your liability, and gives you the right to terminate their account.

8. Make Your WiFi Password Easily Accessible to Customers

It’s one thing to offer WiFi and another to ensure customers know how to get to it. Put up signage that alerts customers to the service and includes the information. Once logged on, their devices will remember the information the next time.

9. Monitor and Regulate Bandwidth Usage

Bandwidth hogging or extended use of the network could slow connectivity. The solution: Set a time limit to cap the amount of time someone can use the service without logging in on their devices again. You could also restrict access to streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu. Another way is to employ filtering tools to prevent high bandwidth usage from single users.

Do I have to offer free WiFi?

As the business owner, it’s your choice whether to offer the service or not. However, WiFi is an asset that can help you grow your business, not an expense or liability. It is a convenience that your customers will appreciate and reward you with a bigger share of their loyalty and pocketbook.

How can I make free WiFi successful?

Offering free WiFi is no longer optional but a critical part of the customer engagement experience. Businesses that employ it are more successful than those that don’t.

To maximize it in growing your business, have sufficient bandwidth to meet demand. A slow connection will do as much to deter business as poor customer service.

As a sidebar, think of your WiFi as a marketing tool. Utilize the captive portal to gather customer information, study trends, and promote your business.

Based on all the ways we have said in this guide, offering free WiFi can boost loyalty, provide your place of business with a unique opportunity to deliver an excellent customer experience, and drive sales growth. Best of all, customers will consider your business the genuine article.

So, the question is not why offer free WiFi but why not?

Image: Depositphotos

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.