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How to build better customer relationships using free public Wi-Fi

By Paul Leybourne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Marketing

Wi-Fi in hospitality
Hospitality operators understand that offering the chance to stay connected whilst enjoying a coffee or taking a business trip can win new customers and attract repeat visits. However, many brands aren’t doing enough to maximise the potential sales revenue that free Wi-Fi could bring. Paul Leybourne, head of sales at managed communications specialist Vodat International, explains how operators can increase profits by getting their customers online.

The widespread availability of free customer Wi-Fi has led to consumers expecting a fast, reliable service when logging on. This means it’s essential for retailers to find the right network solution – one that is secure, compliant and robust – before even thinking about extracting greater value. Without the optimum wireless network solution, what has the potential to be a huge draw can turn into poor PR; resulting in customers posting negative reviews online about their Wi-Fi experience or turning to 3G/4G connectivity instead.

Secure network

Whilst connectivity is a bigger concern for some businesses – hotels in rural locations or motorway service stations, for example – all vendors should invest in separate private and public Wi-Fi access so that internal business communications are split from general customer access. As well as being safer, the performance will be better for both sets of users. However, to prevent spiralling costs and the complication of multiple networks, these should run in parallel to one another on a master network.

Once a secure and speedy network solution is in place, vendors can begin to explore the huge marketing and sales potential that can be leveraged from free customer Wi-Fi access.

Marketing potential

For starters, it provides a lucrative data capture tool. Many businesses require customers to provide basic personal information to use the service, which gives them a chance to gleam details such as email address, age and gender. These details are useful for two reasons: firstly, vendors can build up a picture of their customers based on the frequency, length and timings of their visit. Secondly, contact information can be used to market further offers to customers, generating new sales opportunities.

Increasingly, however, businesses want to skip the sign in process as it can be off-putting to customers. In this case, there are alternative ways to extract value from free Wi-Fi – creating a branded landing page containing company messages and promotions, for instance. Some brands require customers to watch a short video clip or static advert before they can begin browsing.

Social media reach

One of the most popular routes that hospitality operators are pursuing is using free Wi-Fi to increase their social media reach. Requiring customers to ‘like’ a Facebook page or tweet their location increases their social media popularity, raises brand awareness among the customer’s connections and brings them into the brand network for future promotional activity.

Social media marketing works particularly well for businesses with strong takeaway services such as coffee shops, as customers can fire off a ten-second tweet to connect in the queue and then keep themselves entertained as they wait to be served.

Communicate

After initial contact has been established with consumers, the most important thing that vendors can do to increase sales revenue is nurture that relationship. Sending customers a tailored push notification when they log on or following up with a digital discount voucher will increase their likelihood of revisiting or recommending your brand to their friends and family. However, timing and frequency of communications is imperative – consumers shouldn’t be saturated with updates and offers!

Strong network

Offering a reliable, secure and unobtrusive free Wi-Fi service provides a golden opportunity for key players in the hospitality industry to create a personalised dialogue with their customers. All the marketing techniques in the world will not add value or increase sales, though, without the right wireless network solution. Laying strong foundations is the key to an effective Wi-Fi marketing strategy. 

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