Why Free WiFi will thrive in the GDPR era

I am going to hate myself for writing this, but I am going to mention GDPR! I apologise in advance.

An illustration of hospitality venues utilising WiFi

GDPR felt like the Millennium Bug – A lot of noise about something that won’t cause much fuss.

But as May 25 approaches, I’ve realised that it could be the best thing for the industry that I work in.

For years, free WiFi has been a blatant way to get people signed up to a company’s email marketing list.

You select the WiFi network and up pops a screen asking for your name, email address, date of birth, shoe size, blood type etc. You know the story, you’ve no doubt seen it hundreds of times.

Now, unless your using a Social Media login system, three things tend to happen,

  1. You leave genuine information (rare)
  2. You leave false information and get WiFi access (very common)
  3. You cancel the WiFi and use 4G/LTE instead (fairly common)

Guest WiFi has become such an obvious tool for email address gathering that people cheat the system or avoid the system all together.

But this is about to change.

Because GDPR is putting the user back in control of how their data is used, they can confidently use free WiFi in the knowledge that they will only receive marketing material from the companies that they choose.

And that’s fair enough, right? If an offline experience is good enough, you should be happy to receive their online materials.

It will put more onus on the venue itself to provide an experience that leaves the customer wanting more and will make the uptake of WiFi greater because of the higher levels of consumer protection for data handling.

Going forward, WiFi users are going to be told clearly and obviously how their data will be used. Users must opt-in rather than opt-out, which is a huge change.

From May 25, Social WiFi will be fully GDPR-compliant and free WiFi users will be in control of what information they share with our clients and will have the ability to change their permissions quickly and easily.
An illustration of a rocket with contact options

So, this begs the question, ‘why should/would I opt-in?’

A compelling value adding proposition needs to be presented to the WiFi user. The offer of promotions is just a basic form of bribery, whereas what a business should be striving for is loyalty and advocacy. If your proposition is based on offers and promotions, then you’re just going to be targeting the wrong type of customers in a race to the bottom.

GDPR presents businesses, large and small, the opportunity to utilise free WiFi as a loyalty tool that builds relationships with the customers who want to be engaged with.

The data set will probably be smaller, but it will be more valuable, and this is where the opportunity lies.

Technology driven loyalty schemes, like the ones provided by Social WiFi, will be an important asset to businesses looking to convert customers to advocates.

From May 25, everything changes with digital marketing, but businesses with the right tools and strategies in place will know far more about less people and earn more from them.

Paul Webster
COO of Social WiFi