The Benefits of Free Public Wi-Fi

The provision of city-wide Wi-Fi services has several advantages. An increasing number of citizens use the Internet constantly in their education, professional and social lives. People regularly check their emails and Whatsapp messages. They use the Internet to find shops, restaurants and museums, compare product prices and get a taxi. Free public Wi-Fi contributes to a better-connected society and more agile interactions between citizens and businesses.

Any mayor or government authority implementing this public service would see its popularity boosted immediately. Tourists and visitors on business trips would also find their stay more pleasant. The city’s reputation would certainly improve for providing such a service free of charge. A convenient and technologically-advanced city will also attract people to move or visit. 

By offering free wireless connections, governments are helping those with less income and resources. These initiatives can be considered tools for empowerment and social inclusion, as not everyone can afford to get an expensive phone contract with a data plan. Free public Wi-Fi hotspots help people from underprivileged backgrounds access potentially life-changing information, including job opportunities, health advice, online courses, etc.

This is the case with a mobile app created for Barcelona. It solved a peculiar problem: road traffic that was becoming unbearable due to parking spots. Tourists could not park because they couldn’t find available spots, which increased traffic on the streets.

Thanks to a Sensor system, the application makes it now possible to know where the free spots are so you can park your vehicle. A simplified system that saves hours and allows a better turnover of tourists. A real-time saving and a considerable benefit.

Benefits of Free WiFi in the Healthcare Sector

Wi-Fi technology applied to healthcare services largely improves hospitals’ and clinics’ performances. For instance, thanks to wireless apps, doctors can have instant access to their patient’s clinical information and easily communicate with them. In addition, public Wi-Fi facilitates rural health care: patients living in rural areas can use their Wi-Fi network to reach doctors remotely. At the same time, Wi-Fi allows real-time location monitoring, making it possible to track the position of the medical staff within a healthcare building and to better plan the use of resources; both patients and equipment can be directed to the right place at the right time.

Benefits of Free WiFi in the Hospitality Sector

According to a report from Cisco, commercial public Wi-Fi hotspots are expected to grow from 8.8 million in 2016 to 15.3 Million by 2021. This optimistic forecast is related to the positive revenues that businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, bars, cafès, salons, hotels and shopping malls, among many others, have gained from offering free Wi-Fi connection to their clients. Customers, in turn, can leverage freely accessible WiFi connections while shopping. Furthermore, free Wi-Fi connections available in public venues can be a solution for people who can’t afford home broadband connections, whose tariffs are pretty high in some countries.

As for hospitality, according to a study from Systemagic, free and high-speed WiFi, together with good connectivity in terms of bandwidth, are powerful tools for hotels to increase customer satisfaction. The report shows that, in 2016, 65% of guests of Roomzzz, an English aparthotel chain, accessed free WiFi within 7 minutes of check-in, and a quarter of guests revealed that they would not opt for a hotel that didn’t offer free WiFi services. Investing in better WiFi services in the hospitality industry is, therefore, essential to attracting tourists and improving the guest experience. At the same time, investment in WiFi services could benefit the local economy due to growth in its tourism sector.

Benefits of Free Wifi for Businesses

Small businesses today need every possible advantage to stay competitive. Do the benefits of offering free WiFi rank among them? Take a look at these nine benefits and judge for yourself whether free WiFi can help you attract customers and make more money.

  1. Customer Loyalty Will Increase

    Customer loyalty is a key factor in any small business’s success. Several studies have shown that offering free WiFi will lead to increased loyalty.

    For example, a doctoral thesis from Florida International University (FIU) student Jiyeon Jeon, Examining How Wi-Fi Affects Customers Loyalty at Different Restaurants: An Examination from South Korea, explored how offering free WiFi has on customer loyalty and retention in restaurant patrons. He found that WiFi access had a positive impact regardless of whether it was a coffee shop, fast-food, casual dining, or another type of venue.

    Another study, The Impact of Wi-Fi Service in Restaurants on Customers’ Likelihood of Return to a Restaurant, from ResearchGate, revealed that tech-savvy patrons prefer (and will return to) a restaurant or cafe that offers free WiFi service.
  2. Customers will Stay Longer at Your Establishment

    One facet of increased loyalty is that customers will stay longer at an establishment with free WiFi—and more time spent equals more sales. The FIU student thesis said that “restaurants are more likely to generate higher revenues when customers spend more time” and that “Wi-Fi has been found to act as a tool to encourage consumers to stay longer at restaurants.”
  3. You will Gain a Competitive Edge

    The 2017 Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report says people make purchasing decisions based on WiFI signal availability. It cites the following industries as examples of where WiFi is a deciding factor:

    – Hotel (71%)
    – Transport (46%)
    – Dining (46%)
    – Airline (46%)

    2014 survey commissioned by Devicescape, a WiFi beacon network, of 400 small, consumer-facing businesses, discovered that providing WiFi also leads to increased foot traffic, yet another reason to make WiFi one of the amenity services offered.
  4. Customers Spend More Money at your Business

    According to marketing technology firm BazaarVoice, customers consult their mobile device to conduct product research and read customer reviews before making an in-store purchase. Advertising research firm, On Device Research, found that 60% of survey respondents use their mobile devices in-store to research products and prices before making a purchase.

    What are they researching?

    – 34% compare prices
    – 23% use email or social networks
    – 17% look at product reviews
    – 16% check product specifications
    – 16% scan barcodes to compare prices
    – 5% buy items through their mobile device
    – 16% look for mobile discount codes or vouchers

    Such ROBO (research online, buy offline) behaviour is a force multiplier in consumer spending activity. The On Device Research study said that over a third of the customers purchased the product in the store, while 14% chose a different store, and 20% decided to buy via their desktop, laptop, or mobile phone.

    The bottom line: When free WiFi is available, the greater the ease of access and the more money customers spend.
  5. Your Online Audience Will Increase

    Audience growth is another one of the many benefits offering free WiFi gives businesses. Case in point, the On Device Research study stated that when customers are logged onto the store’s WiFi, 74% would be happy for the company to send them text messages or emails with promotional offers. You also increase this audience by providing Facebook WiFi so they can feel more familiar and secure with the service.
  6. Customers Will be more Informed

    Providing business information is one more way free access makes potential customers happy. As On Device Research said, 16% of consumers look for mobile discount codes or vouchers, and 34% compare prices before purchasing.
  7. Customers Will Feel More Confident to Dine Alone

    Telecompaper, a UK telecom industry publication, cited research from O2 Wifi, a company that offers free WiFi services, which said the availability of free Wifi in cafes, bars, and restaurants means that “Brits are no longer embarrassed to dine alone.”

    More than half (53%) of respondents say they are now “happy to eat and drink alone” so long as they have internet access to check email, connect with friends, and look up menu items, the research showed. Six in ten people (58%) say public WiFi encourages them to spend time in public on their own; one in seven (14%) insist WiFi access is crucial for them to consider entering a cafe, sports bar, or restaurant; and one in ten base their dining experience on internet network availability. 

  8. You Can Collect Customer Data and Improve Your Marketing Efforts

    As a business owner, it’s essential to know as much about your customers as possible. The greater the knowledge, the better you can cater to their needs and wants. Increased customer tracking is yet another way offering free WiFi in your establishment can benefit.

    Many Wi-Fi service providers enable you to collect customer data. One such provider, Beambox, citing CMO Council data, said that 56% of social media users will log in using their social media profiles in exchange for a customized brand experience.

    When people log on to your WiFi network connection, they give you their contact details, something that’s hard to come by due to customers’ desire for privacy and security. Along with that information comes permission to market and advertise your products and services. And this makes WiFi marketing another tool for engaging with your customers.
  9. Customer Satisfaction Will Increase if You Offer Free WiFi

    Not only will loyalty among customers increase due to free WiFi but also their satisfaction. (And we know that the more satisfied your customers are, the more likely they are to tell their friends.)

    That report we mentioned earlier from Systemagic, a hospitality industry IT firm, also stated that business and leisure travelers value free guest access over amenities, such as complimentary breakfast or free parking. Here is a breakdown of the statistics:

    Leisure travellers:

    – 25% Free Wi-Fi
    – 22% Free breakfast
    – 15% Free parking
    – 10% Swimming pool

    Business travelers:
    – 49% Free Wi-Fi
    – 14% Free breakfast
    – 11% proximity to mass transit, transportation, and shops
    – 6% Comfortable work chair and desk

How Can I Make Free Wi-Fi Successful?

After reviewing all the benefits of offering free internet access that you, as a business owner can accrue, your decision should be a no-brainer. You may be asking yourself how your company has gotten along without it? Customers appreciate the convenience; they stay longer and spend more; it increases loyalty and satisfaction; you can gather valuable data on customers to help improve your products and services—the list of reasons is endless! So how do you go about setting it up? It involves just a few steps:

  1. Establish a dedicated internet connection. 
    Even if you have internal WiFi for your employees, it’s necessary to set up a separate channel for customer use. Your internet provider can take care of that for you.
  2. Don’t skimp on speed.
    The faster your internet connection, the more your customers will like it… and you!
  3. Set up a password.
    You may be less concerned about password-protecting your free WiFi channel than you are about the internal network connection employees use. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to set a password. Otherwise, you may get “loiterers” leeching onto your network without purchasing anything.
  4. Create a captive portal. 
    When your customers log on to your network, it’s a good idea to have a landing page (called a “captive portal”) that requires their name and email address to gain access. The screen can also include coupon codes, discounts, special promotions, and other incentives for marketing purposes.