Small business owners (SBOs) in healthcare, retail and hospitality, are getting serious about their Wi-Fi.
A study by the Yankee Group showed that 96 percent of respondents prefer businesses that offer free Wi-Fi. Additional studies confirm that offering Wi-Fi to customers drives sales – either through pay-for-access or free Wi-Fi while customers spend in other ways – and small businesses increasingly want in on the action.
According to a 2017 IDC Wi-Fi survey of channel IT companies that provide Wi-Fi solutions to small businesses, 34 percent expect wireless networking equipment upgrades due to interest in monetizing wireless capability directly or indirectly – through paid access, or by improving guest experience, especially as Wi-Fi increasingly becomes standard in the services and hospitality sectors.
That study also found that 43 percent of small business owners feel it’s very important to provide network access to visitors on-site and 44 percent feel it’s very important to provide network access to customers in waiting rooms/other locations.
“Small firms looking to provide the highest quality customer experience should definitely be providing effective Wi-Fi access. Customers may not choose a dentist or car mechanic based on what’s available, but taking the extra step in customer support will confirm the quality of the overall experience,” said Ray Boggs, VP SMB research at IDC. “Plus there is opportunity to allow customers to opt in to build an even closer relationship.”
I agree. A trend we see on the rise is integrating Wi-Fi into the marketing mix. This marketing creates a unique opportunity for SBOs to connect with customers, improve their user experience and engagement with the business, and leverage in-store analytics to drive more conversions.
By requiring customers to sign in, businesses can grow their mailing lists and create consistent communications with news, promotions, and specials. Right now brick and mortar retailers and restaurants seem to be the most active at putting this to use. There’s a reason Yelp acquired Wi-Fi marketing company, Turnstyle Analytics, in early 2017 for $20 million in cash.
That said, I expect Wi-Fi marketing experimentation to be a high-growth market for all types of consumer-facing small businesses with physical retail and hospitality space. Supporting this type of offering requires upgrading systems especially if businesses are using outdated equipment.
The IDC survey revealed that 50 percent of surveyed IT channel companies say their small business customers use wireless technology that is more than eight years old.
For small businesses looking for the latest in security for themselves and their customers, it’s time to invest in quality business-grade equipment versus consumer-grade, which is common with SBO’s who max out the router provided by Internet providers.
Wayne Newton is Director of Commercial Market, Americas for Linksys.