5 Unique Ways Retailers Offering Free WiFi Can Convert Buyers.

6 min read
June 27, 2018

Using WiFI To Convert Customers

Photo: Muhammad Raufan Yusup


As I write this, I'm sitting in one of New York's true treasures, Madison Square Park, home of the first Shake Shack in America, a few random statues and plenty of people watching.  Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall its packed with locals and tourist alike...sure for the burgers and views, but also for the free WiFi.  You might be thinking to yourself, WiFi is so abundantly available, what's so special about it? Its not until you need or want it that you'll understand.  


Additionally, If you walk into any coffee shop on a weekday in every big city around the world, you'll find it packed with people huddled around laptops, all for access to WiFi.  The digital gold justifies the $7 iced skinny dirty chai latte.  So if you're thinking we can't possibly drink that much coffee to warrant a new shop springing up in the neighborhood every week, you would be right.  Its just an extremely high margin toll to pay.  


Consumers are chewing through so much data, the cellphone carriers discontinued their unlimited data packages.  In response, almost every retailer selling coffee or not now offers its customers access to WiFi, however very few have leveraged it from a marketing perspective.  Most business just assume its a necessary tool so they do it because their competition does.  As inbound marketers, we're always looking for the conversion opportunities.  Here are 5 Unique ways Retailers Offering Free WiFi Can Convert Buyers.  

Offer Customized Buyer Experiences

In order to determine how to best leverage providing WiFi access, you must first understand who will be using it.  Who's the buyer persona you're trying to reach?  For many tourist, for instance, WiFi represents simple access in lieu of local cellular service.  For locals, it may represent a stable and faster connection especially for non-mobile enabled devices. 


We spend a lot of time around here talking about buyer personas. In this case, the distinction is key.  If you're catering to tourist, who simply may want to use connectivity to access maps and wayfinding, consider off and on-line resources that can help them do so.  If you're using a landing page gateway that requires them to sign into your secure network, consider providing links for them to download offline maps of the immediate area or transit system to access when they eventually depart your retail location. Upselling their experience with headphones or essentials they forgot to pack or apps that allow them to virtually browse your store in multiple languages is a nice touch as well. 

But perhaps you're not interested in a transient, one-off buyer persona like tourist.  Consider offering a free subscription to your WiFi access.  This works particularly well in areas where public WiFi is still not prevalent.  Each week you'll change the password and email frequent customers the new access they'll need to stay connected.  This keeps non-paying leaches off your WiFi while keeping it fast, secure and reliable for your paying customers.  With access to their email, you can provide them additional value with exclusive offers and deals just for being loyal.  

Spend More Time With Them

For many retailers the time spent shopping a marketing condition we call "stickiness" directly correlates to revenue.  According to a study conducted by Devicescape, 62% of businesses reported that customers spend more time in-store after they introduced free Wi-Fi. For these businesses, how can we enhance this increased dwell time?  This offers extremely added value for larger Big Box retailers and high SKU retailers.  Even with adequate staff on the sales floor, customers can often leave overwhelmed and frustrated that they can't find what they're looking for.  Providing a way to best navigate your store is essential.  An in-store app with wayfinding maps and barcode readers is helpful for this.  It increases time spent shopping and perceived consumer value. 


Every customer that walks through your doors is only in the market for a small fraction of your products. 

A great way to provide them value is to immediately survey them using your gateway WiFi login landing page.  By completing a brief form, they can be emailed (or texted) the physical locations where the products are located in the store.  In the event you're out of stock, they're immediately notified and given next steps on how to order online or when they'll be available again in-store.  This is also great for revisit customers who always purchase the same SKU's.  At a glace, they can see what's in stock by logging into WiFi.  On the back-end of course, you'll be collecting incredibly valuable data on what products your customers are looking for and even help with better designing displays and your store layout.    

emPower Them 

Its important to understand that connected customers are actively in your store with the most powerful tool ever created in their pocket and you've given them the fuel to run it.  Don't loose a huge opportunity by letting their battery run out.  Consider adding USB charging stations around your retail location where shoppers can fuel up. 


Opponents of this strategy feel that this only empowers loiterers to hang around your store.  While true, remember the statistics about longer shopping times.  You may see small increases in loitering, however it will also afford people more time to check out your store.  Strategically locate chargers nearest your highest valued or featured products and services.  They'll be tethered to the display while they charge up.  Consider adding collateral pieces or even digital signage displays they can consume while they're charging. Instruct and train your sales staff on how to interact with these customers.  Have a standard pitch procedure that provides additional value.  Maybe even offer to "guard" their device while they look around.  

Loan Them Your Device

Contrary to popular belief, offering a WiFi "gateway" doesn't give you access to a log of the connected device's history.  With over 50% of the web currently encrypted, most notably Google, there's not much if any useful information about the shopper you'll gain unless they volunteer it.  Why not ask? While the expectation is that internet is free, enhancing that experience doesn't mean it has to.


One idea is to provide customers with mobile devices for use while at your store. You can empower customers to learn more about your product, engage with an in-store wayfinding app, take and post photos with your product, test, review your product and more.  Giving customers access to devices provides an enhanced customer experiences and warrants the additional ask.  Consider setting up a simple landing page on each device requiring customers to "register" to use the product.  Some software is intuitive and allows you to ask repeat users already in your CRM different questions each time, thus compiling a complete profile.  Don't go overboard, keep the forms short.  You don't want to scare them from using the products.  Remember you can set up tracking software on the devices themselves to log browsing history and even geographic data so you know where in your store customers are spending the most time.  

Reward Your Followers

One clever idea you can use to convert WiFi users on social is to simply require them to follow you on Facebook or Instagram.  Both have a feature that allows you send autoreplies to new followers.  You simply drop the passcode in the message and viola.  Be sure to log all of your new followers, into a CRM if possible.  You'll gain basic data on your customers just by looking at their profile.  Encourage them to share on social and tag your branded hashtag for even more value added. 


A few words of caution with this approach.  If you're currently offering WiFi access and now want to gate it using this approach, you may not want to chance the password when doing so.  Loyal customers who already follow you on social, will now have no way to access your password.  Secondarily, remember not all WiFi users are on social media.  Consider offering a way for those customers to access either by asking an associate or even providing the password through some other means.  Being exclusive with free resources is a quick way to disenfranchise customers. 


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