Home Strategy Free Wi-Fi is 'a powerful marketing tool'

Free Wi-Fi is 'a powerful marketing tool'

Free guest Wi-Fi networks are a new and powerful avenue for collecting valuable data about customers, according to a senior official of a company that makes firewalls and wireless access points.

David Higgins, ANZ regional director of WatchGuard Technologies, told iTWire in an interview that the development of sophisticated tools that can track user activity within a physical location via their connection to the provided Wi-Fi network was levelling the playing field between digital and physical businesses.

"Whether a business has a large marketing department or only a very small budget to commit, the introduction of a guest Wi-Fi network can add real value to its operations," he said.

"Regardless of the type of business and what is being sold, such a network can allow the business to immediately deploy powerful new marketing and business analytics tools."

Watchguard HigginsThe remainder of this article is in Higgins' own words.

The power of Wi-Fi

Whether a business has a large marketing department or only a very small budget to commit, the introduction of a guest Wi-Fi network can add real value to its operations. Regardless of the type of business and what is being sold, such a network can allow the business to immediately deploy powerful new marketing and business analytics tools. When starting out, key factors to consider include:

1. Initial Engagement: What is the best way to encourage more people to use the guest Wi-Fi network? How can you collect as much information as possible to better understand your customers?

2. Engagement analytics: Once logged onto the guest Wi-Fi network, the business can monitor where people are spending the most time and what are they doing. This information can have an impact on how a store is designed, what is displayed in prominent positions and what additional services should be considered

3. Targeted marketing: The business can then use real-time analytics to increase engagement with its brand and drive increased purchasing habits. Once a customer has left, the information gathered can be used to encourage them to return again.

Initial engagement

In today’s increasingly digital world, physical businesses find themselves with fewer and fewer opportunities to touch customers directly. Online shopping for retailers, mobile ordering for restaurants, and online booking and mobile check-in and out for hotels are just a few examples of good touch points.

While businesses have no control over the transformation of those experiences, free guest Wi-Fi provides a strong opportunity to create a new experience that could be just as valuable.

With increasing numbers of visitors to a business likely to connect to its guest Wi-Fi network, there is a huge opportunity for branding via the log-in screen. The business also can make the experience easy by offering the opportunity for visitors to use their social accounts to authenticate. And once they have logged in most devices will automatically connect again next time.

Wi-Fi users also love to give feedback, so a business can use its network to poll users for their opinions. A business can ask for feedback on what visitors are shopping for, send “Can We Help” assistance for long-term visitors who may need help finding the product they are seeking or send post-visit satisfaction surveys. Whether the experience was good or needs improvement, the customer will leave with an impression that the business cares about them.

Engagement Analytics

A customer stepping into a physical business is just like one visiting a website. Knowledge of how they got there, where they go, how long they stay, and what they take with them is invaluable to imme­diate and long-term marketing and business decision making.

When it comes to Wi-Fi analytics, different types of insight may be valuable to different types of businesses. Some of the most common include guest demographics, dwell time, zone analytics, and traffic flow.

As a first step, just knowing who is walking through the doors of a business can provide the information needed to better cater to that demographic. Basic demographics induce gender and age and are easily obtained upon sign-in or by allowing authentication to the network through popular social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social sign-on also opens the door to more sophisticated demographic information such as hometown, schools attended, and birthdays.

Understanding how long customers are in a business and where they spending their time can be a game changer, especially for retailers and hospitality venues. For example, if a particular display is attracting high volumes of traffic, it may be better to highlight it in the storefront to attract maximum visitors but then to put it at the back of the store to force all visitors to experience the full store prior to reaching the display.

Targeted marketing

Once a business understands who is walking through its front doors and what they are doing while there, it is much easier to engage with them directly. When a customer is connected to the guest Wi-Fi network, real-time promotions can be pushed to them to encourage increased purchasing.

For example, a retailer may push a 20% off coupon to all connected visitors. Alternatively, if the business has a specific product it needs to move, a special product promo­tion could be issued to help boost sales.

In addition, many Wi-Fi solutions also offer the ability for a business to trigger push marketing based on behaviour. For example, a grocery store could push ice cream coupons to customers as they walk through the frozen foods section of the store.

Once a customer leaves a location, the business retains all the collected information which can be used to encourage them to visit again. Post-visit marketing can include emailing targeted discount vouchers or highlighting featured events based on their demographics and past purchases.

Communicating with customers via their mobile devices over a guest Wi-Fi network, and gathering valuable insights into their behaviour and demographics is no longer only possible for large, well-resourced marketing departments.

By taking advantage of the powerful range of tools now available, businesses of all sizes can take advantage of the opportunities that guest Wi-Fi networks have to offer.

Free Wi Fi 


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!