Posted by: Moe Assafiri
Category: Brand development
People say there is no such thing as a free lunch – and most of the time, it’s true.
But when we think about guest wifi – we know that it’s as close to a free lunch that we’re every going to get. Mobile data does not come cheaply for Australian’s, so providing free wireless access is akin to providing water to the thirsty. But what is the true cost to businesses providing this service? Is it simply an expense, or can you generate real return from it? Let’s take a look.
The benefits of Free Guest Wifi
- New Business where business would have been lost
Tourist from all around the world will flock to cafes that have those big beautiful letters “FREE WIFI HERE”. It’s no wonder that more and more businesses are providing free Wifi for there customers. Getting people into the door of your business is one of the biggest challenges – giving them an incentive makes it that little bit easier.
- Longer visiting times
Free wifi allows users to check their email, surf the web and enjoy content as they would in their own home. It’s no surprise that when people stay longer, then tend to spend more. This is not always the case, but as an average, this is good news for your business.
- Repeat Customers
Customer loyalty comes in all shapes and sizes. If you’re competing against other businesses that provide a similar product or service, what really sets you apart? Is it your price point, your customer service, ambiance, or a mix? Free wifi is another element to providing people the reason to return. It’s not uncommon to hear people recommend a meeting spot at a cafe simply because “they have free wifi”.
- Increase customer satisfaction & brand recognition
Customer who get something for free love to give back. Being in this socially connected world means we have the ability to snap and share our experiences every second of the day. Allowing customers to do that on your premises increases customer satisfaction (who doesn’t love free data?) and also give your business free social media marketing. Win-Win!
The pitfalls of Free Guest Wifi
- Security, Security, Security!
Guest wifi should be for guest devices. Never, ever expose your business critical wifi network to your customers. Imagine having both your POS and Guest Wifi running on the same network? Now imagine a tech savvy individual having the ability to shut down the communications between you and your POS. Not great. Having a secure network is extremely important when thinking about guest wifi. The easiest to implement is to set long, hard to guess passwords, and set the SSIDs (the network name) to Hidden or “Do not broadcast”.
- Bandwidth Killer
Australian businesses aren’t blessed with large data plans either. It is getting better, but it can still be a considerable operational cost. Offering free wifi is great, but remember, someone is paying for that data. Without the right checks in place, people can quickly exploit your generosity.
- Network throughput
Network throughput is another thing to consider when offering free wifi. Remember that fast Fibre connection that many Australian’s have been blessed with? Me neither.
Many businesses run on ADSL2+, and that means a (theoretical) maximum of 24Mbps per second. Let’s face it, it never hit’s that anyway. So multiple devices all consuming media can be quite the throughput killer too – which is going to hurt if your business relies on internet services, such as Kounta or Xero.
- Lack of Analytics
Modern business strives off data gathering and information crunching. Traditional guest wifi just doesn’t have the power to collect the data that is there to be taken. Knowledge is power.
Next Generation Wifi for the Small to Medium Businesses of Melbourne
We were lucky enough to be invited to see a presentation on the next generation of business networking devices.
Meraki, by Cisco, really blew us away. The feature set is amazing from both the technical and non-technical side of things.
What does this mean for small to medium businesses who want to offer free wifi?
Well, traditionally, free guest wifi has the pitfalls of what we explained above, how can Meraki help solve this problems?
Meraki allows you to create a secure guest wifi network with, literally, a check of a box. It’s that easy.
- Bandwidth safe
Meraki allows you to completely block content through your wifi network. Traditionally, blocking the websites that where known to you as being a bandwidth killer (or naughty) was a tedious task. Now, Meraki manages the lists for you, just set the category and it’s done!Now, let’s be reasonable here, the internet is a free place, and so should be your wifi – so completely blocking heavy content website is the wrong thing to do (in my opinion). Instead, we can throttle those websites, such as Netflix, to a slower speed. Meaning that your customers will need to consume content at a slower rate (or have to deal with lower quality video).Meraki has the ability to actually identify where the bandwidth is going and can assign priority & throguhput based on that filter system. This is known as Layer 7 filtering – it’s really neat.
- Network throughput
As discussed above, we can also do this nifty trick that makes sure all your business critical information is sent first, with the highest throughput. We can even filter based on devices, so your guests can continue to enjoy their Wifi without having to upset the boss in the office.
Big Data. Information. Analytics. Demographics. These words mean so much to people in the tech industry, and they should. They drive business decisions in the right direction. Meraki has the ability to collect data like you have never seen before. We can also layer PurpleWifi on to Meraki – making data even more interactive, granular and just downright awesome.
Social Media Check-in
This is the ROI end of Meraki. Now image; every time someone visits your store, in order to gain access to free Wifi, they must like or check into your Facebook page.
You can calculate the value of every like to your page by using an online calculator. For many businesses, the value of a like is around $3-$5, sometimes even (much, much) more if they sell predominantly online.
If we assume that the (super rough) cost of your internet and infrastructure is around about $0.20 per hour, per customer – thats at least a 10x return – per customer! With access to that like or check-in, you have the ability to continuously market to these customers that you are certain have visited your premises at least once. That’s a powerful marketing tool, that cost you a fraction of the typical acquisition cost for a social media follower.
We can even do some pretty neat things with an Analytics engine known as PurpleWifi, although, we’ll leave that for another post.
If you’d like to organise a demo on how Cisco Meraki can revolutionise your business, please speak to U.S (Unify Services)!