Money for nothing and wifi for free… How to monetize wifi?

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monetize wifi - myndset digital strategyAs the provision of wifi becomes more commonplace in places of commerce (malls, stores, restaurants, clubs, etc.), there are a number of different ways companies are looking to monetize wifi or otherwise gain value out of offering “free wifi.” These include:

  • premium wifi, with faster, unlimited access
  • advertising, e.g. pre-roll video or banner
  • limited time, after which access becomes paying
  • personal data, i.e. the user provides personal data or social likes {Tweet these options out!}

In all cases, it is of course important to consider and balance out the costs (infrastructure, fees) and the revenue streams that need to be worked out with the operator.

The mobile wave

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As the tsunami of mobile surfing marches onward, the expectations and usages of mobile continue to evolve. Whereas companies used to get away with making customers pay for access, the expectation is clearly more toward providing free access. While the breezy international traveler might expect the wifi standard to be the same in all business class lounges, even this can vary. So, it is not surprising that the ways that companies individually approach the free wifi topic is all across the board. Moreover, there are certain cultural or regional specificities that will come into play as well. At the end of the day, the way that wifi is offered is intimately related to the business objectives and the style of relationship that the owner/manager wants to have with his/her customers. Whether it is about revenue optimization or customer fidelity will ipso facto impact the way wifi is implemented and monetized.

Wifi “monetization” – An example

monetize wifi nueva alcantara

I was recently at my favorite padel tennis club, near Marbella in Spain, called Club de Padel y Tenis Nueva Alcántara, run by local icons, Luis Nieto and Nacho Sarato. The club has recently instituted free wifi, about which I was thrilled to learn when I last visited. The Club has made free wifi access available as part of an exchange that I found rather interesting from a business standpoint. In terms of user experience, however, there were a few hiccoughs.

monetize wifi - myndset digital strategy

The wifi customer journey

The customer journey is as follows:

  1. Once you click on the club’s wifi channel, you are asked to like or follow the Club’s social media (Facebook, Twitter), which will then provide in exchange a 7-day ‘automatic’ log-in.
  2.  You must view a 15-second promotional video (this one from Axe/Unilever) that, if not viewed, you will not be given wifi access. After approx 10 seconds, you can click out (meaning you won’t even see the brand name behind this specific ad!). The glaring issue in the Club’s case is that the bandwidth is too slow to allow the video to roll flawlessly, making for a rather painful experience.
  3. You land on the Club’s homepage (which is regrettably not mobile friendly)
  4. Henceforth, providing you like the Facebook page, future log-ins will be done without having to view the video. [I note that I had to view the video a few more times before the automatic login worked]

The value exchange

So, how does this Club monetize wifi access? In exchange for freewifi access, this Club receives a like on Facebook, a visit to the club’s web page and advertising revenue from Axe.

In exchange for what? The user gets a somewhat weak wifi connection and is provided an automatic log-in for 7 days. [Note that there is no premium offer in this case.]

To monetize wifi well… some best practices

For those embarking on the freemium wifi (complimentary up to a paying version), here are some important best practices:

  • Ensure that the bandwidth will satisfy not just today’s needs, but anticipate the increased needs of tomorrow {Tweet this out!}
  • Install a system that appropriately prioritizes bandwidth for premium users {Tweet!}
  • Make sure that the “free” service is fast and efficient on the basic services, such as email, social media and browsing {Tweet!}
  • N.B. If you are going to push the wifi channel, your website ought to be mobile friendly. Moreover, if you are going to push your social channels, it would be better to have them populated and active. {Tweet!}

In any event, if you are going to go visit the Marbella and you have any desire to play padel, Nueva Alcantara is the place to be. The ambiance is great. There are always activities going on and, now, there is free wifi.

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