The Connected Customer is Always Right

Cradlepoint UK

Why You Should Be Offering Free WiFi

Blog post originally posted on the Cradlepoint EMEA LinkedIn page on 09/10/15 by our EMEA Team.

It’s official. According to a recent Ofcom report, smartphones have overtaken laptops to become the main device that UK consumers use to go online. 66% of adults have one in their pocket and this number increases the younger they are – 90% of 16-24 year olds own one. The days of separating out your online and offline activities are over. The UK customer wants to be able to get online anywhere, and implementing free WiFi is an easy and cost-effective way for merchants to maximise the opportunities around this shift.

Restaurants, snack bars and coffee shops that offer free WiFi encourage footfall and are more likely to be seen as destinations than their non-connected counterparts. Even chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s, whose cultures were built on the idea of convenience and immediacy, have evolved to cater to this shift in consumer behaviour. Linking with well-known providers, these chains offer WiFi that is free, involves a customer receiving a splash page with branded content and offers, and is also filtered to prevent any inappropriate content being downloaded – a move that is only going to impress their target market. Encouraging families to linger as long as the lone worker sat on the next table will of course increase the chances of them making more purchases.

But that’s not all. Free WiFi encourages people to tag themselves at your venue, put pictures up of your dishes, review your menus and service and so on, giving you free promotion for your business across various social media outlets. We know that user-generated content (UGC) now plays a part in influencing decisions – with 39% of people using online recommendations and 36% relying on user reviews for their information sourcing – so this is only going to be a win-win for you.

Smartphone usage has massively increased in the last few years, however when it comes to retail they are still mainly used for researching and price comparisons. While tablets, laptops and PCs are currently the favoured choice for online transactions, customer behaviour is changing all the time and the scope for innovation is huge. Retail stores have a great opportunity to create a multichannel or omnichannel experience by encouraging customers to use their mobiles in store.

Sainsbury’s is currently trialling an app that allows their customers to scan barcodes of what they need at home, creating an online shopping list. As soon as they enter the store, their WiFi brings up a map showing the visitor where the items are located, and they can scan items they pick up while browsing. As part of the app they are exploring the appetite around mobile transactions by allowing customers to pay over their mobile as well – taking the idea of the self-service checkout to another level.

B&Q now offer free WiFi in all of their 360 UK shops and have completely updated their online experience to be fully responsive, giving customers and staff the same view. Part of their app strategy has been to include a barcode scanner, allowing visitors in store to find out more about a product by simply scanning it – specifications, colour ranges etc. They also give members of their loyalty scheme, B&Q Club, unique barcodes that can be scanned in store to redeem discounts. This way they can get a unique identifier for each customer which will help to monitor their activity, both in store and online, and could eventually lead to a very clear view of their customer’s purchase history. Having good WiFi in store also means their staff can carry tablets and roam freely while helping customers with their wide range of products as well as showcase the benefits and features of their new digital landscape.

You don’t have to be a big corporation to start making WiFi work for your business. At Cradlepoint, we have lead the way in our wide product range to fit every size of business and networking capacity. The new AER3100 is the perfect solution for small and micro branches and, like the rest of our range, is built for resilience, reliability and easy deployment. It allows you to take control over a visitor’s destination when they join your network, by showing them a splash page or directing them to a website of your choice. By doing this, as well as adding a log in, whenever someone who’s visited previously walks past, they’ll see your branding. You can even explore delivering tailored offers to your customers by exploring the data that you can glean from their previous behaviour. Coupled with enterprise applications, the AER3100 can provide in-depth customer analytics features which monitor search and transaction data. It’s also built to be PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant, ensuring that all cardholder data is kept secure. Plus, by offering advanced VPN options as well as Unified Threat Management, transactional data will be kept secure too – so you’ll be ready for that shift towards mobile transactions when it inevitably comes.

We all know that good customer service equals good business sense. The same can now be said of your network service. Giving customers a bad WiFi experience is worse than none. You need to consider it as an extension of your personal service and commitment to providing quality and reliability. Your increasingly tech-savvy customers want – high quality WiFi for free – and they will give you loyalty, as well as the info you need to improve your business. All without looking up from their mobile phones.