In recent years, the movement toward shopping local has gained momentum as consumers want to improve their communities by patronizing small and medium-sized businesses. The 2015 Cox Consumer Pulse of Small Businesses survey revealed one of the reasons for this welcome change in behavior is the level of service customers receive when buying from small businesses. As a result of technology, Internet access is readily available which levels the playing field for small businesses.
So, if you already have friendly and engaging employees, how else can you set your business apart from the thousands of other small businesses in Hampton Roads? In the Pulse survey, consumers pointed to a variety of ways that small businesses can improve even more, with tactics from broadening their offerings to offering Wi-Fi to customers. Wow, Wi-Fi? Let’s dig into that a bit more.
As our society becomes ever more digitally mobile, the need to identify and use complimentary Wi-Fi has increased. Free access is fast becoming a customer expectation rather than a luxury. So, it’s safe to say that retailers who offer Wi-Fi to their customers set themselves apart from their competitors - or at least make it a more competitive playing field. And those who don’t may soon find they’re at a disadvantage. For example, customers staying at a hotel now expect Wi-Fi access as part of their room amenities, just as a television was expected years ago.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Attract new customers - By offering free Wi-Fi, businesses are seeing an increase in foot traffic. More bodies in the store equal more opportunities for your employees to build relationships and eventually make a sale. In fact, 50 percent of customers reported spending more money at a business where free Wi-Fi is offered. Also, customers can more easily access product reviews, search for coupons, comparison shop and decide in real time to make a purchase all from their connected device while in your place of business.
2. Collect valuable customer data – While most “Guest Wi-Fi” applications do not require credentials, Wi-Fi networks that require a log-in process may be able to capture the user’s name and email address. This information can be used for future marketing campaigns, promoting special offers and connecting with your customers on a personal level.
3. Improve customer reviews – Customer reviews are being used more and more during the decision-making phase of the journey to purchase. Providing free Wi-Fi can be perceived as a customer service perk and therefore could be the difference between a 4-star and a 5-star rating on online reviews of your business – and ultimately the difference between consumers choosing your business over the one across town.
As a business owner, you may be concerned about sharing a connection with your customers. Having multiple devices accessing the same hotspot can often slow down speeds and productivity which can reflect poorly on the customer experience. Thanks to ongoing advancements in technology, there are simple solutions like offering guest Wi-Fi access that allow customers to access a separate, dedicated Wi-Fi connection. This keeps your employees productive, customers pleased and keeps costs down for your business. Speeds are faster than ever with this configuration, too.
So, is having Wi-Fi really a competitive advantage? The short answer is yes. Offering free and secure Wi-Fi is one of the best ways that businesses can create customer-friendly environments and enhance engagement. What are you waiting for?
Thom Watkins is the Director of Sales for Cox Business in Hampton Roads. For questions about Guest Wi-Fi or other Small to Medium Business solutions, you can reach Thom at Thomas.Watkins@cox.com or visit www.cox.com/business.