How Operators Can Turn Guest Wi-Fi Into Marketing Opportunities

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Guest Wi-Fi services have become a mainstay for any size of foodservice operation and, while it gets patrons through the door, once they go through the opt-in process, there is also a wealth of data-collection and marketing opportunities to be had.

“Everyone has guest Wi-Fi — it’s as essential as water,” says Jason Falovo, Sales director for Cisco Meraki in Canada, a San Francisco-based provider of cloud-based management solutions for networks and communications. “It’s what you do with the data that matters.”

It’s not just about getting customers to sit down and have an option to do their work, says John Lettieri, president and CEO of Hero Certified Burgers in Toronto. He works with a third-party provider to manage the brand’s Wi-Fi-marketing efforts. “Once they opt in, we can get a basic understanding of their staying patterns, when and how often they’re coming and what drives them back. When we have that, there are lots of ways we can capitalize on it.”

Not surprisingly, coffee chains were among the first to get on board with Wi-Fi marketing, Falovo says. And as the practice evolves, developers are focusing more on plug-in solutions that can take Wi-Fi information and marry it with social media and other available data to better engage customers.

There are plenty of third-party apps to choose from, he says. “Some are focused on proximity, others on engagement and others on a combination of features. You just need to figure out what aligns with your marketing goals.”

The opt-in process is key in that it provides a non-intrusive way to collect data that can be used to engage with customers — whether through follow up emails, post-visit surveys or special discount offerings.

The best part is it can all be done using your existing Wi-Fi network, Falovo notes. “You can do everything you need with a properly installed single infrastructure using the proper security policies.”

Pickle Barrel Restaurants in Toronto has been using Meraki and the Turnstyle Analytics Wi-Fi marketing platform in 11 restaurants to engage customers via their smartphones. Adam Gilbert, vice-president of Marketing, says within one year, the initiative has acquired more than 150,000 unique sign-ins to receive targeted marketing and communications content.

Nima Ayat, director of Sales for Aislelabs Inc. in Toronto — a Wi-Fi location marketing, advertising and analytics service — says the analytics gained from opt-ins can be applied locally or on a more widespread level. “You can use it to understand daily and weekly visitor numbers for one site, or compare traffic patterns at multiple [restaurant] locations.”

As for customer outreach, systems can be set up to perform multiple tasks, such as sending a thank-you note and coupon to a frequent customer, Ayat adds.

“If someone doesn’t come back, you can send a different message to encourage them. Overall, it allows your marketing activities to be more targeted and personalized and reach out to customers based on their behaviours.”

Written by Denise Deveau

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