Featured, Networking

How to offer your customers free Wi-Fi

Offering a free Wi-Fi service for your customers is much more than just a nice gesture. It’s a way to attract new customers, to encourage them to dwell longer on your premises, plus deliver targeted information using customised log-in portals and redirects that lead to your website or chosen landing page.

Beware the café camper

Take a small retail business like a coffee shop, for example. Offering free Wi-Fi is a great incentive for customers to stay longer and drink more, although we’ve all come across the infamous “café campers” who occupy an oversized table and hog the Wi-Fi for hours with an empty cappuccino mug beside their laptop.

Don’t let this deter you, however. There is evidence to show that such behaviour is the exception, not the norm. A study of four hundred small retail businesses in the U.S. concluded that since installing free customer Wi-Fi, 61.3% of customers spent more time on-site and 50.1% also put more money in the till.

But free Wi-Fi is about more than just selling caramel lattes; by directing customers to your website, you can show special offers, offer coupons and even collect customer data that could be used for re-marketing. Plus, everyone that connects to the service adds traffic to your website. The only question that remains is this: how do you set up a free Wi-Fi service for your business?

Setting up a free Wi-Fi portal

A good business class router should include the ability to set up a free Wi-Fi portal as part of its feature set. Here’s how you do it using the ASUS BRT-AC828 AC2600 Dual-WAN VPN Wi-Fi Router.

ASUS BRT-AC828 AC2600 Dual-WAN VPN Wi-Fi Router
The ASUS BRT-AC828 AC2600 Dual-WAN VPN Wi-Fi Router

1) Log-in to the router admin panel

On an ASUS router, you’ll find this at http://router.asus.com. Then select Guest Network.

2) Enable ‘Guest Network – Free Wi-Fi’

3) Click on the Background button

This will allow you to give your Splash Page a custom background image that’s appropriate to your business. Perhaps this could be a professional photo of your premises, or a bespoke-made visual using your logo and branding. The recommended image resolution is 1152 x 854px or higher, and you can choose to centre the image or have it stretch to fit the browser screen.

4) Complete the form

Fill in the name of your business and the network names (SSIDs) that you want customers to see when they scan for Wi-Fi networks on your premises. You can choose to restrict free Wi-Fi access to just the 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks or allow both.

You can also choose to leave the network open or add a passcode. Adding a passcode may be sensible as it would require a customer to ask, or be given a Wi-Fi token, perhaps after making a purchase. You can easily change the Wi-Fi password at chosen intervals, to help discourage the aforementioned café campers. Finally, fill in the terms of service, or use this area to link to your website’s privacy and cookie policies.

5) Set connectivity options

Another method of discouraging excessive loitering on the free Wi-Fi network is to set a connection timeout, which will require visitors to re-authenticate their access (and perhaps buy another latte) after a set time limit.

You can also limit the upload and download bandwidth, which is advisable so as not to compromise the performance of your internet connection, though don’t restrict it to such a degree that your customer experience becomes poor. Finally, add the URL of the landing page or website that you want to re-direct your customers to after connecting and hit Apply.

You can further tweak the settings by going back into your router’s Admin Console and clicking on the Guest Network tab. For example, this will allow you to update the network key or rename the SSID.

And that’s it! Your free Wi-Fi portal is now enabled and ready for customers to use. Good luck and beware the dreaded café camper…

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