Have you ever considered offering free WiFi to your customers? This can be a great way to get people in the door and keep them coming back. WiFi can help you increase sales and customer loyalty, but it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of WiFi before deciding to offer it.

Free WiFi has become almost a staple of business environments while customers wait for service. While most people think about coffee shops and cafes when they think free WiFi, it's not uncommon to have this perk offered by gyms, yoga studios, auto repair or oil change shops, retail stores, or doctors' offices.

The reality is that free WiFi is becoming more and more ubiquitous, and people will notice if you don't offer it, particularly if you have competitors that do. This may play a role in their decision on which business to patronize in the future. Considering how popular remote work has become – a trend that shows no signs of slowing – many people depend on WiFi to get their work done throughout the day, and for some, that even includes while they're out and about. It's getting to the point where WiFi is expected at many places, and not offering it may reflect negatively on the customer experience.

Cox Blue makes a good point: "Offering free WiFi to customers isn’t enough—your WiFi must also be fast and reliable. Customers may be even more frustrated with very slow connections than no internet access at all. If your connection is spotty or slow, investigate why. An older router, out-of-date router firmware, interference from nearby networks, frequency issues, even the location of your router are all possible culprits when it comes to slow connection speeds or dropped connections."1

According to data cited by Small Business Trends, increased time spent on the premises is one of the biggest benefits that come with offering free WiFi.2

"The customers are bound to stay longer if they can remain connected," the publication says. "As many as 62 percent of businesses pointed out that the customers spend more time in their facility or shop if WiFi access is offered. Around 50 percent of customers spend more money as well. You must be thinking that the customers are simply hanging around, taking up the space but are not spending much. You are wrong. Only a few business owners pointed out that the customers spend less and simply hang around if free WiFi is made available."

It is important to ensure that your network is secured, because security issues that arise can present all types of problems for your business, from fraudulent behavior to reputation damage from the fallout of an incident. It's wise to separate your WiFi traffic from your business’s corporate network. It's also a good idea to set up filters so that users are unable to access inappropriate content or illegally download content.

If you have an information technology department, they should understand the best practices around these types of issues. If not, consider contracting with a network professional to help you ensure you're not taking unnecessary risks.

If you offer free WiFi to customers, consider offering additional small products that prompt impulse buys while they are using it. This could be something as simple a mini-snack bar in the corner of your lobby. An auto detailer could offer car accessories, such as air fresheners and steering wheel covers. This encourages customers to spend a little more than they already are, and if they've stopped by just to use the WiFi, it might be the difference between no sale at all and a small one.

WiFi can ultimately help your customers feel more appreciated. If you have taken the proper security precautions, there's little reason not to provide it in exchange for increased customer satisfaction. We've come a long way from the days of outdated magazine issues on waiting room tables, though it doesn't hurt to provide reading material for those who like holding pages in their hands.

1. https://www.coxblue.com/avoid-these-5-common-problems-when-offering-free-customer-wifi/

2. https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/11/small-businesses-need-offer-free-wifi-customers.html

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC