Don’t give your customers a reason to say no. As time passes, more and more reasons become immediate deal-breakers. The very first was a sanitary storefront. A few generations later, it was air conditioning, then public bathrooms, and slowly but surely, “cash only” signs became public advertisements for “we don’t want your business.” Now plenty of other criteria exist that will cut off prospective customers. But in the era of constant connectivity, free WiFi is becoming a new-age requirement.
The security warnings of public WiFi have been broadcast loud and clear, but the masses don’t seem to care. If you are a public-facing business, then you should consider offering either password-protected or completely free WiFi to your customers.
For roughly the last decade, coffee houses have been feeling this pinch. Instead of reading the daily paper and drinking a cup of joe, coffee patrons now sip and stare at their phones. It’s the reason many coffee drinkers choose Starbucks over mom and pop shops. That same “corporate digital amenities” versus “small business care” is starting to proliferate across other industries, too.
Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, malls, automotive shops and even dentist’s offices are now offering customers WiFi. If your clientele is likely to spend a small portion of their day inside your business, then readily available and free Internet access is a must-have.
The cost for implementing a public WiFi system varies, but important logistics must also be considered. The more devices riding a WiFi signal, the slower the bandwidth is for all connected. So for a small business, you could get away with a router and splitting your current Internet connection into secured employee and open customer sides. However, if your store services a dozen or more customers at a time, and they average more than 20 minutes per visit, then you should probably look into establishing a second Internet connection with two routers — one for customers and the other for employees so their Internet speed doesn’t suffer from greedy customers.
Of course, then come security concerns. Should your customer WiFi be password protected? How about geo-restricted? Should you establish a splash page that requires users to log on and interact with branded messaging before hitting the open Internet? Mileage varies as to customer reaction to web access barriers, but if set up properly, these tools will allow you to track and monitor your customers in-store web activity. And in this time of big data and digital market analysis, an expenditure on the front end may pay off big in the long term.♦
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.