Once upon a time, it was a pleasant surprise if you were able to enjoy WiFi when you went out to eat or shop. Today it’s an expectation. Of course coffee shops have become virtually synonymous with free WiFi, but it’s also offered in bars, restaurants, clothing stores, book shops, bed and breakfasts, and many other small businesses.
There’s a reason – offering guest WiFi gives any establishment a competitive advantage. According to a 2017 study from Norton, access to WiFi is a major consideration when choosing a business. For instance, 46% of their respondents said it was a deciding factor when choosing a restaurant and 71% said it was important to deciding where they go while traveling. Those numbers are even higher today. For example, a Hotel Investment Services survey showed that WiFi connectivity is considered “vital” to 95% of its respondents.
Several other studies have also proven the benefits of offering guest WiFi and found it empowers small businesses to do the following:
- Increase Security
New threats emerge all the time in technology, so it’s important to protect the security of your business as well as that of your customers. A guest WiFi helps with both. For one, creating a network exclusively for your customers keeps them separate and independent from all of your business’ activity, whether it’s your point-of-sale (POS) system or banking information. Further, your customers will be protected from all types of malware while connected to the guest network. With Meraki Go, everything – from your business’ hardware to your customers’ devices – sits safely behind a dedicated security gateway that is automatically updated.
In addition, by offering guest WiFi, you will likely also protect customers from unknowingly logging into a hacker’s rogue access point. This is one of the dangers of using public WiFi from an unknown source that is not password protected. Make sure the name of your business’ guest network – otherwise known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID) – is crystal clear to your customers. You should also keep an eye out for any “evil twin” SSIDs that pop up with similar names because that could be a hacker as well.
In contrast to the name of your guest WiFi, make sure the SSID for your business network is not immediately identifiable. This helps your company avoid being a target for hackers. And of course it’s important to regularly change your password on both your business network and guest WiFi. Make the latter something that is only accessible to your customers.
- Control network usage
It used to be that if a business wanted to offer WiFi, they would actually share their own network with their customers. Unfortunately, some small businesses still do this, especially if they’re using the router from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Not only is this bad for the security of your business, as we’ve discussed, it also gives you zero control over what your guests do.
With a guest WiFi, you can optimize their experience from the moment they log in. For instance, you are able to create a customized landing page with Meraki Go, whether it’s one that drives visitors to your website, asks them to follow you on social media, or alerts them to upcoming promotions.
Even more importantly, you can control what your customers do and don’t do while on your guest WiFi. You can control whether they’re able to download anything, which obviously helps with issues of security. In addition, you can block websites you find objectionable. This starts with any adult sites, ranging from pornography to gambling, and of course any web content that is ethically questionable or illegal. You might even want to block competitors. For example, if you’re a bookstore, you might want to block online book sellers.
In addition, you could block sites that will gobble up your bandwidth, such as Netflix. Meraki Go also gives you the ability to control bandwidth on each of your networks – you can set limits for your employees that are different than the limits for your customers using the guest WiFi.
- Get customer insights
Not only can you control the experience your customers have through your guest WiFi, you’re able to learn more about them. You can discover whether someone is a first time or returning customer, when they arrive, and how long they stay at your business. For example, Danny Garcia-Decoteau, owner of the Hair It Is barbershop in Boston, uses Meraki Go to learn about their peak guest times and how often their customers come back. This “gold mine of data” has helped inform their staffing decisions and led to the barbershop’s popular happy hour offers.
They are not the only ones. 76% of retailers consider customer insights to be critical to their success. Not surprisingly, research has found that customers stay longer at any business offering WiFi. And seeing how customers spend their time on a guest network can offer inspiration for even more targeted marketing efforts.
With Meraki Go, you can see what devices your customers use while at your business (laptops, tablets, phones) as well as their operating systems (iOS, Windows, Android). You can also see what applications they use. This can include their web browser, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, video conferencing like Webex and Zoom, and music streaming services like iTunes and Spotify. You can then launch digital marketing campaigns promoting your business on the platforms where your customers are most active.
Yet another benefit of offering guest WiFi is that customers often do research online before making a purchase in a store. 90% of people use their mobile devices in the store to look into products, search for reviews, and compare prices before making a purchase. There’s no question that percentage is even higher today. The good news is that they found all this in-store online activity translates to customers spending more money at your business.
Customer satisfaction comes about in multiple ways with guest WiFi and it all adds up to greater customer loyalty. As we’ve discussed here, Meraki Go gives you and your customers the best guest WiFi experience no matter the size of your small business. Visit our documentation to learn how to set up your own guest networks.
Meraki Go is here to help your small business grow.
Visit the Meraki Go site to learn more about our intuitive and innovative solutions that support small businesses.
Hotel Investment Services survey 2019
Small Business Trends