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Be my guest: How guest Wi-Fi services benefit small businesses as well as customers

Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

  • Free Wi-Fi can help businesses capture useful data and learn more about their customers.
  • Having a professional Wi-Fi service could open up opportunities for new revenue streams.
  • Businesses can control their customer Wi-Fi access and usage with the right service.

While ordering a coffee or taking a break while shopping, many customers will take advantage of free Wi-Fi. However, there are many ways small businesses can also benefit by providing this almost ubiquitous service in the right way.

Free guest Wi-Fi is often treated like just another courtesy for customers, along with free coffee refills or complementary mints by the register. However, as Wi-Fi marketing and monetisation expert Steven Lim writes, "retailers need to focus on Wi-Fi as an overall business strategy to not only improve brand loyalty and enhance the customer experience, but most importantly to chart a course ... based on the data and intelligence".

Image shows two people using free Wi-Fi in a café. Free guest Wi-Fi has many benefits for small businesses.

Beyond convenience for customers, the benefits of free guest Wi-Fi can potentially far outweigh the costs – and could even help a business to identify new opportunities to tap into a whole new revenue stream.

Know and serve your customers better

It’s not uncommon for businesses to offer free guest Wi-Fi by simply chalking the password to their own business network on the board or handing it out to customers when they ask. However, this can be a massive missed opportunity (as well as a security risk, which we’ll come to later).

Instead, there are specific services available – such as Telstra Air Merchant® – that provide a more professional Wi-Fi experience for customers while also making it easier for a business to capture useful data and learn more about their customers. 

If you’ve ever connected to the Wi-Fi network in a hotel, your browser probably took you to a branded login page where you would enter your account or room details to access the internet. A guest Wi-Fi service can work in a similar way, presenting the customer with a branded page containing one or more options for how to get internet access. 

For example, one convenient and popular way for customers is to log in with Facebook. This is not only quick and easy for many people but can also provide your business with aggregated publically accessible demographic information – so that you can gradually build up a picture of who your customers are.

Alternatively, you could exchange internet access for completion of a simple survey, giving you valuable feedback on your products and services. 

This splash page also gives you the chance to share personalised offers, invite newsletter sign-ups or promote your social media channels (and some Wi-Fi services will integrate easily with email marketing list providers like MailChimp). 

Become a co-working space 

Cafés, restaurants and pubs routinely struggle with the ebb and flow of clientele. Certain times of the day seem almost guaranteed to be busy, but there can also be long stretches in between with very little demand. However, some businesses are beginning to use their free tables, coffee menu and reliable Wi-Fi to attract a different clientele during their quieter periods – creating a secondary revenue stream at the same time by becoming a co-working space.   

In the US, partners with restaurants and cafés to sell co-working memberships to professionals looking for places to meet and work in surroundings less formal (and expensive) than an office and similar schemes are popping up in major cities around the world. This sort of service is particularly attractive for freelancers and work-from-home professionals who may need to conduct client meetings, or just require the change of scenery to stay connected to the outside world.

Whether you partner with a membership service similar to Spacious or manage your own co-working space, a reliable and professional Wi-Fi service is essential.

Stay in control of customer Wi-Fi access and usage

Of course, giving out the password to your business broadband gateway to anyone who asks is a security risk. A tech savvy customer with your password has the keys to your gateway and can change your configurations. Securing your business could mean separating your own network from guest Wi-Fi.

A Wi-Fi service like Telstra Air Merchant® also allows eligible Telstra Fixed Broadband customers to control customer Wi-Fi access and usage if you’re concerned about someone chewing through your business broadband data allowance by trying to download the complete Game of Thrones over lunch. However, you still need to ensure you have plenty of bandwidth to cope with multiple customers using the internet simultaneously. Being known as the place with the rubbish Wi-Fi will undermine your whole guest Wi-Fi marketing plan.

Far from merely a customer freebie, a professional guest Wi-Fi setup coupled with the right strategy can deliver value back to your business in multiple ways. Are you ready to connect?

*Originally published March 16th 2018. Updated June 27th 2018.

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