Managed Wi-Fi a win-win for retailers, telcos

Robin Kent/ Adax
05 Sep 2014

Free Wi-Fi is now an expected customer service in brand-name coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa. But free Wi-Fi is a potential money drain if the business providing this service isn’t using the vast possibilities it offers.

Businesses have the opportunity to turn the cost of an expected convenience into a revenue stream while enhancing customer experience and brand loyalty.

Wi-Fi is a guaranteed route to internet access -- at least when compared with the standard mobile networks (3G/4G) -- but it’s not always perceived in that way. The process for accessing retailers’ Wi-Fi is not always a smooth one, with some requesting users to sign up using quite lengthy online forms.

With so many users “on the move,” it’s unrealistic to expect adherence to a sign-up process that can take five minutes. The user might just choose to rely on patchy 3G or 4G coverage to access the internet.

This is a problem for both the retailer as well as the mobile operator. Bearing in mind that in most cases, the retailer is also the Wi-Fi service provider, the retailer will lose out in terms of user engagement if the user is in the store’s Wi-Fi coverage radius.

Retailers rely on consumer information and interaction, to better the service they offer and to provide a more targeted marketing strategy. If the consumer is relying on their 3G or 4G network – it’s harder for retailers to manage consumer interactions.

From the operator’s perspective, the problem of data overload is potentially significant. If you imagine, hypothetically, that in a big shopping mall every retailer that provides a managed Wi-Fi service is suffering from downtime – consumers will resort to their standard mobile networks. If everyone in the mall is doing this, then there are obvious concerns for operators who are trying to manage the data flow through the Wi-Fi.

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