How do businesses survive, by providing free WiFi Internet?

We all love free WiFi, don’t we? Today, with the increasing advent of WiFi enabled gadgets like the brand new iPad, iPhones, Blackberrys and Sony PSPs, CIOL has already predicted a ten-fold growth in such devices, within 2014! The WiFi market is predicted to touch $1 billion in another 2 years. And thus, it’s no surprise that a lot of public WiFi networks have started to sprout up, in your vicinity.

While most of the WiFi enabled hotels charge you for Internet access, there are also a lot of establishments that have started providing WiFi access to their guests for free. Be it malls, coffee shops, apparel stores, or even restaurants, they have all started to jump into the band wagon. Now, why would anyone provide WiFi Internet access for free, you may ask. Let us try to figure out what could the reasons be.

1. Most free WiFi services are accompanied by advertisements. For example, you might be sitting in the cafetaria of a mall, working on your laptop and munching on your lunch, while there is a Shahrukh Khan movie that’s being played in their in-house movie theater, that you might not be aware of. Now, if you are a Shahrukh Khan fan, what do you figure are the chances of you buying a ticket for the movie, there itself? Moreover, suppose in the same mall, there is a 50% sale going on in a branded apparel store, on the floor above the cafeteria. Now, if you visited the place just to work and grab a bit, chances are low that you might want to window shop. But if you are suddenly aware of a discount sale of this kind, there is a high chance that you end up visiting that store, isn’t it?

2. Have you ever heard of contextual advertisements? These are basically adverts that are tailor-made to be served to you. Allow me to elucidate. Since you are using the establishment’s network to access the Internet, it is possible to write small pieces of code that can gauge the kind of content that you are interested in, by analyzing the websites that you visit, and then serve you advertisements that are in tune with the programs analysis. Sounds spooky? Don’t worry, it is just a program that flushes out the usage data the moment you log out, and no human can ever know which websites you visited. And well, think of Google who had mastered the art of contextual advertisement better than any of us. Have you ever been frightened to use Google as your default search engine? Moreover, contextual advertising is the future. It’s for nothing that today advertising on Facebook costs more than what it does on Google :-)

3. Enough of malls. Let us take up an example of restaurants and coffee shops, now. The very reason for these establishments to provide free Internet access is so that you spend more of your time in the cafe, working, enjoying the conditioned air, and sipping on a coffee or munching on a brownie. That’s it! More you stay engaged in their stores, more are the chances of their sales shooting the roof, and thus increases customer stickiness.

4. With the high adoption rate of smartphones and PDAs, the number of brands serving mobile versions of their websites has also gone high. And since mobile devices are much easier to carry, than a traditional laptop, or even a netbook, both the need and usage of public WiFi Internet access points have shot sky high.

5. if you check out this blog post by WATBlog, where they wrote about the latest series of AC buses that BEST is planning to come up with, you would understand how powerfully WiFi services can be utilized to target advertisements to the users. Location based advertisements to the bus travelers – brilliant, isn’t it?

So, what do you think? If you too own a business establishment where your customers visit regularly, it’s high time you too started providing WiFi Internet access to them!