Set Up Public WiFi at Your Small Business

Set Up Public WiFi at Your Small Business

Nearly half of mobile phone users sleep with their phones by their bed. You can bet that if they can’t part with those little devices while they sleep, they won’t when they are shopping in your retail store either. If you want to keep customers browsing – and not heading elsewhere to avoid missing incoming messages – consider offering free public WiFi.

According to a recent survey of independent retail stores conducted by iGR, when businesses installed free WiFi, 61 percent of customers spent more time in the store and 50 percent spent more money. In addition, because customers have to log in to WiFi, it offers you another opportunity to capture their contact information for marketing purposes. Finally and perhaps most important, customers have grown used to instant access to the Internet, and as more and more retailers offer WiFi for free, customers are beginning to expect it wherever they go, especially those customers without 4G data plans or who are subject to data usage limits. If you don’t provide WiFi, you can bet your competitor down the way does – or soon will.

If you are considering setting up public WiFi in your store, follow this advice:

Protect your business data
If you have existing WiFi that you and your employees use, don’t just make it available to customers. Doing so puts you at risk for having your system hacked and exposing your confidential data to outsiders. It is ideal to set up a separate access point for customers. However, if you want to use the same network, at the very least, create a guest network and encrypt your private network with WiFi Protected Access (WPA) or WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2).

Choose the right equipment
While regular consumer-oriented routers might work for your small business and are cheaper, with many costing below $100, business-class models, which start at $200, provide stronger security, better access to your network from remote locations and the ability to scale. They also offer enough range and coverage to provide several people with quick access at any given time, for example, U.S. Cellular's 4G LTE Router allows you to connect up to four wired Ethernet devices and more than 30 WiFi-enabled devices.

Some routers can allow you to set bandwidth and time limits or even require users to accept terms of service before accessing the Internet. As you shop around, think about what features are ideal for your business now and down the road as you grow and expand, and then pick the equipment that meets your needs and your budget.

Purchase an adequate service package
Do a bit of research to find out which of your local Internet providers will give you the best deal and coverage. To ensure that you receive a service package that meets your needs, talk to provider representatives about how many users you can expect and what type of information you think they will want to access. For example, users at a café might stream videos, while a customer in a clothing store might go online to register for the store’s rewards program in order to receive a discount.  

Manage your passwords
You increase the security of your network if you password-protect your WiFi, rather than make it open to everyone. Some store owners post the password on a sign located in the store, while others opt to limit WiFi access only to paying customers and include the password at the bottom of receipts. The latter option offers you the most security and prevents customers from loitering without actually buying.

Must important however is to change your password periodically, with some experts suggesting that you change it weekly or even daily to offer the most protection and to prevent people from using your WiFi on an ongoing basis without making any purchases.

People love their smartphones and their gadgets, and they want to be able to use them anytime and anywhere. With the right equipment, service package and monitoring you can bring customers into your store – and keep them there – without much effort or added expense on your part.

Jaimy Ford is a professional business writer with nearly a decade's worth of experience developing newsletters, blogs, e-letters, training tools and webinars for business professionals. She contributes to both The Intuit Small Business Blog and She also serves as editor-in-chief of Sales Mastery, a digital magazine written specifically for sales professionals.

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