Convert coffee shop WiFi parasites to powerful ambassadors

What do you get in return for offering free wifi?

Once again we’ve been reading about coffee shops trying to meet customer demands by offering free WiFi but losing out. This time it’s the coffee shops in Washington DC that are bearing the financial burden of their generosity, with students monopolising tables for long periods of time and sipping free cups of water, when the venues could be filling their tables with lunchtime diners.

What are the coffee shops doing to combat this? Well, rightly or wrongly, they’re imposing WiFi time limits on “squatters” and wifi-free seating but this brings its own problem. It will immediately be off-putting to those who are happy to part with their cash but expect to be online whether they are visiting for five minutes or five hours.

The coffee shops may well be facing a genuine problem with a very real financial impact and often their own network connections will be sluggish as a result of the number of people online in the premises. They should expect something back but utilising the rich analytical data that can be captured through social WiFi solutions could deliver a much more valuable return than a few more cups of coffee.

So, what does the win-win model look like?

Social WiFi gives something back to the business providing the free connection. The coffee drinkers use their social networking profiles to login quickly and this in turn delivers useful information to the management, such as the demographics of visitors, how often they come in, how long they stay, their gender, age and other information. All of this can be used to design a really targeted customer engagement programme.

By making the login process simple, with no long registration forms and no usernames or passwords to remember, you’ve already scored a goal against the competition next door. A fast and secure connection that doesn’t kick you out after a set period of time – goal number two. To secure the all-important hat-trick you then market your guests with relevant and exclusive offers and rewards for their loyalty, based on the rich analytical data you have gathered.

Instead of rewarding one coffee with an hour of free WiFi, why not promote your lunchtime meal deals, buy two coffees and get a third free or offer a free beverage with every doughnut purchased? And remember, you aren’t only talking to them on Facebook or Twitter. As soon as they share or retweet you’re also getting in front of their friends and followers too.

By encouraging brand loyalty in this way and promoting your offer, you are getting something back.

Something to think about before banning the online brigade from your café…

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