Globally, 45% of total GSM smart device traffic was offloaded onto terrestrial networks via Wi-Fi in 2013, according to data from Cisco. In addition to this, Informa estimates that by 2015 there will be 5.8 million public hotspots worldwide, that’s 350% growth since 2011. In light of the rapid growth in Wi-Fi usage, it is imperative that South African service orientated businesses look at incorporating Wi-Fi as a service to its customers in order to remain competitive or gain the advantage.
This is according to Craig Medefindt, National Sales Manager at FastNet, says “Wi-Fi is the current buzz word, internationally and locally.” Trends indicate that Wi-Fi connectivity for smart devices is becoming a ‘given’ in the hospitality industry. “It is naïve to think that free Wi-Fi should be limited to a specific sector because it is relevant to any service orientated business. Hospitality has embraced the tech, however banks, motor industry, large retail and even medical services are all entering the space of providing some element of free Wi-Fi to their customers.”
If a business has a waiting area designed for customers pending the conclusion of a service, then Wi-Fi provides the perfect distraction, says Medefindt. “Adding to that, advantages of enticing customers; stay longer, spend more and being happier all while on your premises. It can even result in return visits and increase in brand loyalty.”
The main reason for the growth in Wi-Fi usage is related to the increasing adoption of Wi-Fi enabled devices – adoption of both Tablets and Smartphones now exceed laptops, says Medefindt. “These devices, while connected to your Wi-Fi, can provide a new way to touch your consumers.
Offering a free to customer Wi-Fi platform, can provide customer landing pages, unique adverting and even run specific promotional campaigns, all while your customer is sitting in your business, what more could you ask for?
If you are going to stick your brand out there, it is imperative to use the services of a reputable provider with a proven track record in both installing and maintaining what will be your Wi-Fi brand offering. Add to that, a good provider will help to ensure security of the access point and continuity of the service, he says.
Medefindt says one of the disadvantages experienced by businesses currently providing free Wi-Fi, is of course the misuse of the service. “People not in your premises, but within Wi-Fi footprint connecting and making use of the service. So it is imperative to have some T&C’s and simple business rules too”.
There are umpteen solutions for those businesses intending to offer free Wi-Fi, says Medefindt. “Those with a good understanding of the technology, could setup their own Wi-Fi network. It is both time consuming and potentially risky. A paid for service offers a hassle free solution, passing greater benefit on to the business with fully branded Wi-Fi landing page and SSID and increased brand exposure in the process. Of course there is the option of a free service, such as the Telkom Mobile service, which is free, with the branding remaining that of the Wi-Fi service provider.”
“Offering free Wi-Fi to consumers comes at a price, that is until the business offsets the costs with the benefits, things like branding, customer loyalty, even gathering data on customer experience can be all be deemed valid reasons for a business to consider the move,” concludes Medefindt.