The battleground of the ubiquitous free Wi-Fi is heading for an interesting transitional period, in one corner we have the customer who expects a constant internet connection wherever they are, they really don’t care how difficult or expensive this is to deliver and why should they?
However in the other corner there are the businesses that have to invest heavily to ensure their customers have a positive experience.
There needs to be a compromise in which both parties can be happy with the outcome and early indications seem to suggest that the up and coming trend of ‘Social Wi-Fi’ might just have a very bright future.
The concept behind social Wi-Fi is that business will invest heavily into providing an internet connection for their customers and in return they must sign-in via their chosen social network website such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or by completing a form. In doing so they are able to capture details of their customers and promote your business to their online friends.
This opens up many possibilities for store owners and here in the UK, Purple Wi-Fi are leading the way with their that purple portal that gives their users access to its presence analytics, this allows businesses to understand who is visiting and using their hotspot, how long they are online, as well as their age, gender and any other relevant information that they offer in their social networking profile.
The portal also provides a powerful engagement tool to promote relevant offers, essentially rewarding guests for visiting the venue.
Free Wi-Fi means more customers, who will feel encouraged to stay longer at a venue which ultimately means they will spend more too and shopping centres like Orchards in West Sussex seem to be confirming this.
Geo-fencing technology allows this data to be taken one step further by drawing invisible lines around specific sales areas or locations, to identify behaviour patterns within that area. This is facilitated by setting up WiFi grids where activity is monitored, allowing instant confirmation of who is using the network and where.
We can then gauge how long consumers will remain in these areas and what purchases they are considering. This information assists venues to develop marketing strategies that can be implemented in real time, including email and messages sent to a consumer’s phone, highlighting offers in the store”
Your initial response upon reading about this growing technology is probably what about my privacy? However Purple Wi-Fi are quick to point out that “The customer has the right to opt-in or opt-out of tracking. If a customer is not opted in, our software can still detect an anonymous MAC address, confirm whether that MAC address is a new or repeat visitor, and see how long that device stays”
A quick Google search for “Social Wi-Fi” reveals a growing number of companies offering these services and utilising technology like this is rapidly becoming essential to any business that wants to stay ahead of the game.
The options are endless and in this digital customer-centric world, the potential to have a business owner that could be alerted to a review posted before the customer has even left the premises and allow them to resolve or interact with the user is simply invaluable.
If you are reading this and have a genuine interest in where this technology is heading both here in the UK and USA with Social Wi-Fi and Bluetooth beacons, I recommend this episode of BBC Click that features several companies and cities that are reaping the benefits.
As customers we are currently very wary of big ideas to capture big data for marketing purposes making this a very sensitive subject for many but do Milleniuals who just expect the service to be there have these same fears?
Whether you are paying a premium for an all you can eat high speed 4G data connection on your device or access a free hotspot by sacrificing a slice of your personal data, one thing is for sure and that’s there is quite literally no such thing as a free lunch.
Are consumers willing to sacrifice a little privacy in a trade-off to access a free high speed wireless connection? I am interested in your thoughts and viewpoint on this developing technology.