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Small Business Tips

How to set up free WiFi for customers

Manasa Reddigari

Want to boost consumer engagement while your customers surf the web? Consider setting up free WiFi for customers at your place of business. There are a series of steps you will need to take to set up a fast, reliable and secure connection for customers.

Keep reading to learn how to set up free WiFi for customers.

What does it mean to provide free Wifi for customers?

It refers to when you set up a WiFi hotspot at your place of business that is accessible to customers. A hotspot is any physical location with an accessible wireless network.

The hotspot offers Internet access via a wireless local area network (WLAN). The WLAN usually relies on a router supplied by an internet service provider (ISP). The router projects a WiFi signal into the area that other devices in the area can pick up.

Customers can then connect to the Internet via the WiFi hotspot from their laptops or phones. This way, they can browse the web while frequenting your business.

Does my business have to provide free Wifi?

WiFi is an optional amenity that your business can choose to provide customers on a free or paid basis. But a growing number of businesses have opted to offer free WiFi to their customers for good reason. The benefits of setting up public WiFi include:

  • It increases customer engagement. iGR surveyed small businesses that offered free WiFi. Sixty-two percent of businesses said that customers spent more time at a site with free WiFi. Therefore, more time on site often translates to increased customer engagement.
  • It can boost sales. Half of the businesses surveyed said that customers spent more after they added WiFi.
  • It increases customer loyalty. Think of a neighborhood coffee shop or deli that offers free Wifi. Notwithstanding, customers often cannot go without visiting them for a single day.
  • It bolsters social media marketing efforts. Free WiFi makes it easy for your customers to "check in" at your business via social media apps. This is, in turn, boosts marketing and brings more people through the doors.

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How do I setup free WiFi for my customers?

Follow the steps below for how to set up free WiFi for customers.

1. Choose a reliable ISP

The most important step of how to set up free WiFi for customers is to choose a reliable and affordable ISP. The ISP will provide you with Internet access. Popular ISPs include AT&T, Comcast Xfinity and Time Warner Cable.

2. Choose a high-speed, high-bandwidth service plan

ISPs offer more than one plan. Hence, try to get one that offers the highest speed and bandwidth at the lowest cost. Bandwidth is the rate of data transfer in the network. If the network speed or bandwidth is too low, customers may experience slow browsing.

3. Get and set up the appropriate equipment

You will need a modem and a router or a modem/router combo to tap into your ISP's connection. Be sure that it is compatible with your ISP. Then, set up the equipment as directed by the ISP.

4. Set up a guest network

Letting customers connect to your business' private wireless network is a security risk. You should instead set up a separate public wireless network for customers. Be sure to choose a secure password for the network. Enable WPA/WPA2 encryption for the network for added security. Turn off the SSID to your private network so that customers cannot see it.

5. Set up a captive portal

A captive portal is a web page that a customer will see before the network grants him access to the Internet. It will contain terms of use that he must agree to. This is key to limiting your liability. You do not want to be responsible for a customer's illicit actions online.

6. Prevent bandwidth hogging

You can usually program the captive portal to prevent visits to sites that may hog bandwidth. For example, you can block visits to Netflix or YouTube. This helps ensure a fast connection for everyone on site.

7. Communicate the WiFi password to customers

Put up a sign that alerts entering customers to the free WiFi on the premises. If you wish, keep the WiFi network name and password behind the checkout counter. This will help restrict WiFi access to paying customers.

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