We’re living in a world where there’s a WiFi connection available, no matter where you are - almost. It’s why 81% of US citizens use public WiFi regularly.
What’s more, that connection is probably free, fast and pretty easy to jump onto. And, while security will always be a top concern for public WiFi, it is possible to offer free internet connectivity that doesn’t leave the backdoor open for cybercriminals.
If you’re a regular user of public WiFi, you’ve probably noticed a growing trend over the last couple of years for the provider to force some form of login before granting internet access. You’ll be asked for your email address, Facebook login or mobile number in exchange for free, unfettered access.
You probably handed those details over, too, which is why WiFi marketing is such a hot topic for brands these days. Certainly, if you run a retail operation or hospitality business, it might provide a route to market that offers a brilliant return on investment.
What is WiFi marketing?
As previously noted, you’ll almost definitely have experienced WiFi marketing in action. It’s when a retailer or hospitality business provides access to wireless internet and uses it as a channel via which to communicate promotions and messages.
It’s one of the most consistent examples of where bricks-and-mortar businesses that interact directly with the public are embracing digital marketing.
Most commonly, WiFi marketing manifests itself as a login screen into which you have to enter some personal details before gaining access to the internet. You’ll probably also be asked if you’d like to receive marketing messages thereafter. Tick that little box, and you’ll be added into the store, hotel or cafe’s marketing database.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What is social WiFi - is it the same thing?
Social WiFi is simply another term used to define the branded login experience we now find as part of the process for connecting to public hotspots.
The only discernible difference between WiFi marketing and social WiFi is the fact the latter is typically seen as a free service geared towards providing users with the best possible browsing experience while out and about. The former is usually free too, but the provider may opt to implement some form of fee or reduced access unless payment is made (you still see this a fair bit in the hotel industry).
WiFi marketing is an aggressive form of marketing hidden behind simple logins and what is a genuinely useful service. Whether or not you believe Social WiFi is identical in that regard is open to interpretation (or a simple matter of terminology).
How does WiFi marketing work in practice?
WiFi marketing relies on a wireless internet connection that is made available within a defined coverage area - usually within the borders of the restaurant, hotel or store.
When someone is within that coverage area, they can connect to the WiFi access point via their smartphone, tablet or laptop as they would any other.
However, after step 1, the process gets very marketing-driven, as you can see:
- User selects the store’s WiFi connection (which is clearly labelled as the brand’s own).
- Their device connects and immediately throws up a login screen that must be navigated before internet access is granted.
- After filling in their email address or logging in via another method (such as Facebook), the user is taken to a landing page that confirms the connection and tempts them to do something related to the brand.
There are two key things happening here from a marketing perspective:
- the store is gaining a vital piece of customer data (usually, their email address), along with agreement to receive marketing communication if they check that box; and
- the customer is presented with a CTA immediately, during a moment when they’re most engaged with the brand.
Few other marketing channels offer an opportunity like this. Email, for instance, relies on a great subject line and perfect timing - just like social media. But when you’ve got a customer there, in your store, connecting to your WiFi, there are so many opportunities for effective marketing.
Some businesses use this opportunity to provide one-time coupons or to highlight new lines that can be purchased while in store that day.
In other instances, you’ll see brands offering links to download their app, or divert the user to another website that helps them drive additional promotions.
The user? They get access to free WiFi, so they’re happy, too!
The benefits of WiFi marketing in retail
If you’re running a retail operation, here are some of the benefits WiFi marketing will offer your business.
It’ll drive more sales
The power of that landing page after logging into your WiFi service can’t be underestimated. Your brand will be in the mind of the customer at that very moment - they couldn’t be more engaged.
The right offer at that moment in time could result in an additional sale; multiply that by the number of people who will access your WiFi!
You can compete against online sales
Grabbing the attention of people who are more likely to shop online is difficult, but with in-store WiFi, you can close sales without losing them to the digital realm.
This is only possible if you send real-time offers while people are physically in your store. Something that’s far harder to do online, but eminently possible with WiFi marketing.
You’ll gain a better understanding of your customers
WiFi marketing gives you insight into customer data like never before.
Pick the right system, and you can delve into their shopping habits, likes, dislikes and encourage them to share their in-store experience.
It’ll help you nudge them through the sales journey
Shoppers often get stuck somewhere within the sales journey. Whether they leave a basket unattended or start the journey online but never finish it, the data you can gain about them via WiFi marketing will help nudge them along.
By using that landing page to direct shoppers to relevant offers, you could spark the inspiration needed to complete a shopping journey.
The benefits of WiFi marketing in hospitality
Research has revealed that nearly two-thirds of hotel guests jump onto a property’s WiFi connection within seven minutes of arriving.
Here’s why hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants benefit from WiFi Marketing.
Direct bookings become more achievable
If you can grab a guest’s acceptance to contact them with future offers thanks to a WiFi login, you can use that opportunity to point them towards your own website for booking. In turn, that’ll help reduce agency commissions.
You can offer them services that suit them
The analytics on offer from WiFi marketing systems enable hospitality businesses to see exactly how guests interact with their services.
That means you can use their past stay and movement data to tailor services that best suit them, thus increasing the chances of repeat bookings.
It promotes the benefit of running two networks
In order to maintain a safe distance between your staff’s WiFi access and that of guests, it’s sensible to have two networks in place.
Most WiFi marketing systems promote the benefits of this and, indeed, require it to be the case if you want to make the most of a login service for guests.
It furthers the brand experience
That little branded WiFi login screen does a whole lot more than get people online and give you guest data - it’s an extension of your brand, too.
Most systems enable you to get pretty creative with this by customising the login screen to your heart’s degree. And that means yet another reminder of your brand’s look, feel and ethos whenever guests use your WiFi.
How does WiFi marketing benefit customers?
Like all great forms of marketing, WiFi marketing has some brilliant customer benefits, too.
It’s far more convenient
With a WiFi marketing system in place, users don’t have to hunt around for access codes or spend time asking staff how to get online.
It provides a much better shopping experience
WiFi marketing provides relevant offers for shoppers, and that’s the kind of marketing that is far more likely to put a smile on their face.
They’ll feel a connection with the brand
WiFi marketing is powerful, because it helps brands and customers connect. And this is only possible because it is so timely; it happens there and then, just as the customer is interacting with the brand.
How to set up WiFi marketing
As you’d guess, setting up WiFi marketing isn’t as simple as buying a router, plugging it in and hitting the ‘on’ switch.
You need a public WiFi system that features a certain amount of plug-and-playability, but which is also fast, secure and capable of capturing the data you need from users.
Once in place, you should have access to some form of dashboard that offers a bird’s eye view of network usage by user, the ability to brand your login page and connections for your social media profiles.
From there, you should also have access to marketing tools for email and online review platforms. This will help you build and nurture marketing lists and use analytics to send out marketing messages that are timely and relevant.
And finally, how to ensure customers use your WiFi network
So, you’ve invested wisely in your new WiFi system, but how do you ensure customers or guests actually use it?
The good news is that the majority of them will probably proactively seek out the connection themselves, but given how prevalent 4G connections are (and with 5G on the horizon), there are a few things you can do to ensure they jump onto your WiFi marketing platform:
- let them know it exists with posters and signs both outside and inside;
- incentivise them to use it with the promise of exclusive promotions and offers;
- throw a launch party when you first introduce free in-store WiFi;
- add note of its presence to your menus;
- reward people for signing on and give them the opportunity to share their experience with friends on social media; and
- develop a loyalty program around your WiFi login.
We hope this guide to WiFi marketing has proven useful. It looks like it’ll remain one of the most contemporary forms of marketing for quite some time.