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Is the party over for free Wi-Fi in cafes?

Posted 26 September Allan Gallop

Having watched an interesting piece on the BBC website about the route Wi-Fi is taking in cafes, there appears to be a vital element that is being missed. It’s called the value exchange!

If you frequent a coffee shop to set up your mobile office, for an hour or even a whole day, it is highly likely that you need to be online. Whilst there, you are also likely to purchase various goods to quench your thirst or appetite. Therefore, there is already a value exchange between goods and services for the customer – improving their customer experience.

However, this is more common and robust in larger coffee chains compared to their artisan counterparts. It appears that the value exchange being missed by various hospitality establishments is actually the customers’ data for use of the Wi-Fi. Data can tell us about an individual’s behaviour and characteristics all from inputting an email address. Therefore, the coined term “Free Wi-Fi” is not actually free, but a value exchange of data and connectivity.

When you see a cafe or other establishment going against the grain and deciding to stop their Wi-Fi offering altogether, the consequence can sometimes be detrimental to them and this is often as a result of not fully understanding the opportunities that Wi-Fi can offer,

If you take a look at larger coffee shop chains, you will see that the data exchange allows for increased marketing activities that become personalised to the individual. If you were a customer setting up your laptop ahead of a meeting, how great would it be to receive some sort of communication that recognises you from your previous visit and offers you a pick-me-up treat based on your behaviour, learned from your activity on the “Free Wi-Fi” network.

Wi-Fi in cafes is not over, if anything it is just the beginning as the understanding for Wi-Fi improves.

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