For many UK restaurants, hotels and pubs, providing free guest Wi-Fi is now the norm, but few hospitality operators have recognised the benefits it has to offer as a customer engagement tool.
Picture the scene: Customers enter a bar or restaurant and take to their smartphones to see if Wi-Fi is easily accessible. For tourists in particular, hospitality venues often provide a vital bridge back to their home lives. With mobile data restrictions preventing them from accessing 3G/4G overseas, they are reliant on free Wi-Fi provision to update their social media, check emails and learn about the latest news in their home country.
Too often hospitality operators view guest Wi-Fi as an inconvenient necessity – an amenity they have to provide simply because customers expect it and other destinations provide it. Consequently, they are content to provide customers with a password on request and fail to promote the Wi-Fi effectively.
Customers log on, often without seeing any sort of welcome screen, and are then free to use the Wi-Fi for hours henceforth.
This is a huge missed opportunity for venues to gather insights about their customers and build valuable relationships with them, giving them personalised content in a timely and efficient manner. By requiring customers to log into a Wi-Fi welcome portal, businesses can find out who they are, what they’re using the Wi-Fi for, and what might potentially be interesting to them in terms of promotions and special offers.
Furthermore, with some Wi-Fi platforms it’s possible to gain presence and location analytics data without the customer even logging in, giving the venue insight into visitor numbers, how they’re navigating the facilities, whether they’ve used the Wi-Fi service before etc.
The technology to deliver advanced guest Wi-Fi is already here and can be deployed without having to overhaul businesses’ existing infrastructures. Here are five practical steps hospitality businesses can take when looking to get more from their Wi-Fi provision:
1. Welcome your customers
For starters, make it obvious that Wi-Fi is available to all customers – advertise it in the venue and make the network ID readily recognisable to guests looking to log on. Create a captivating welcome portal that is in line with the look and feel of your brand so that customers recognise it as an extension of the amenities you’re already providing. Use this portal as an opportunity to display messages, applications and information about loyalty programmes.
2. Welcome them back
Create profiles that allow customers multiple login options – such as username/password, email, social media account, click through and smart authentication. Doing this means you’re able to identify how regularly your customers return or whether they use any of your other sites, allowing you to reward repeat visitors, for example with loyalty programmes and show them that their custom is valued.
3. Understand guests’ behaviour
You’ll be able to use the data you’re capturing on customer movements, browsing habits and suchlike to gain a more accurate perspective on your guests – e.g. gender, age, nationality, interests – as well as what times the service is proving most popular, and for how long people are using it at different times of the day. Consider how you can use these insights in order to market specific offers and promotions to different customer profiles via the Wi-Fi portal.
4. Integration with the wider marketing mix
Once you know who your Wi-Fi guests are, you can create triggered campaigns through a range of channels, so that different customers receive relevant, personalised content via SMS, beacons, push notifications etc. You can use your portal to promote your social media pages so that these customers quickly become Instagram or Twitter followers of Facebook fans. You can also integrate guest Wi-Fi with your email database – feeding all new users logging onto Wi-Fi into your existing email lists before segmenting them by demographic data in order to send the most relevant email updates to the most relevant audiences.
5. Monitoring promotions performance
Once you’re using guest Wi-Fi to market specific offers, events or promotions, you can monitor how frequently the Wi-Fi services are being used as well as how these promotions are performing. Venues can examine attraction rates (how many visitors are coming to the venue), engagement rates (the extent to which the venue captivating the customer in-store) and retention rates (the number of repeat customers), quickly and easily making tweaks to campaigns to assess whether they perform better with different audience types or at different times of the day.