Yes, Wi-Fi demand has gone up.

Having Wi-Fi for your patrons is now deemed as expected as a knife and fork.

Free Wi-Fi? In the age of 4G LTE networks, it seems like a rookie mistake. Or at least it can be if you’re not paying attention.

Wi-Fi, contrary to your idea of it, is as strong as ever. And unless we’ve got a Mad Max scenario going on, it’s not going away any time soon. And even should that happen, you can bet some enterprising IT hold-out will be keeping the internet alive.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why Wi-Fi? Despite the proliferation of 4G networks, we all use it. You’re likely reading this article on a device connected to a wireless network. 4G has limits. Data overages. Vampiric battery draining. Disadvantages that Wi-Fi isn’t hindered by.

Your customers have smartphones. If you’re a business owner, you want to have a free and open internet for them to use. It’s simply good business.

Who Should Offer It?

If you have captive customers, you have customers looking at their phone. Regardless of what kind of business you are. Restaurant? Bar? How about a doctor or dentist’s office? Café? All prime targets. Even guests at a gym want to stream videos or songs while pumping the iron. Hair salons. Laundromat. List goes on.

Customers aren’t just using phones. People at cafés often pull out laptops or tablets while pounding out the next dubiously great Australian novel, or whatever project they’re pretending to focus on while sipping their mocha lattes.

No one wants to go to the trouble of trying to connect their device to their phone’s personal hotspot while out and about. Enter you, the ever thoughtful business with a handy network.

We’re going to talk about why Wi-Fi’s awesome in a bit. But for now, what’s key is the fact that you have captive customers.

When customers have free internet access, you’ll notice something key. They spend more time at your business. Way more. One study found that up to 96 percent of customers prefer businesses with free Wi-Fi. You’d think this would be fairly straightforward. But the fact that not everyone has a public hotspot proves otherwise.

Another study showed that customers spend more money and time at places with hotspots. What this means for you?

You’re an idiot if you’re not providing it.

Why Use Wi-Fi?

Or should we say why-fi? (Feel free to 👊 me now).

In all seriousness, Wi-Fi’s still the king of getting online with minimal stress. Your laptop can’t connect to a cellular network. But it’s ready to make sweet love with your café’s Wi-Fi.

Even phones have a lot to gain. Most of your customers, and you may very well be included in this circle, are likely on a semi-limited data plan. The more they stream? The more they pay. With Wi-Fi, no limits on what you can stream and download. At least for the end consumer.

One in five Australians regularly go over their monthly data limit. We’re surprised that number isn’t higher. Ever looked at how much data you use on a regular basis? You’re probably one of those 1-out-5s. High intensity apps like Facebook and Twitter eat data like a starving kid at Macca’s. Forget about streaming music or video.

And to add to this, your favorite sites and apps are becoming more and more data intensive by the minute. Automatic videos. Graphics-heavy newsfeeds. Gone are the days of minimalist forums and HTML blogs. It may take but a couple hours on the Facebook app to absolutely ravage a limited data plan.

The savvy customer hoards their data. And if they’re restricted to a limited plan, they’re not going to be doing a lot of phone-gazing on a cellular network.

Phones work harder on cellular networks, especially if they’re searching for a wireless network to connect to. Continual network requests are hard on batteries. Your customers, on a cellular network, won’t have a working phone for long.

On Wi-Fi, in comparison, phones are able to last longer. A lot of it’s because they no longer have to continue searching for a Wi-Fi network. They’re on one. Using a Wi-Fi network, versus cellular, saves on battery. That should be enough of a reason to open up the router.

If customers can actually listen to their favorite songs, keep up with their friends, and tap out the Great Australian Novel at your café, all the better for you and your bottom line.

You’ve probably been there. Looking for a Macca’s or a pizza shop with free Wi-Fi so you could connect online and send an important email from your laptop. Either because you’re out of data or battery on your phone. If you haven’t, a customer of yours might be in that very boat. Or maybe your hypothetical customer doesn’t have a cell phone but they have another device that can connect to wireless.

If you’re not doing it for the locals, do it for the tourists. Often, international visitors don’t have data plans that cover stints abroad. Their data plans may be limited to their home country. But free Wi-Fi? That crosses all boundaries. If a tourist can find a free, easy-to-access hotspot, all the better for you and your bottom line.

Do it For the Community

Back to you and your router.

Businesses with hotspots become meccas, plain and simple. If you have a place in the community where everyone can gather to use their phones and laptops without worrying about data overages, all the better.

Consider it free advertising. What’s Starbucks known for (besides what they call coffee)? Free Wi-Fi. Your favorite work-away-from-home spot? We’re going to guess it has Wi-Fi. Each of your favorite hotspots might have their own charms but the Wi-Fi lets you know it’s a safe and easy spot to get some work done or screw around online.

We all need Wi-Fi these days. You may as well be the one who’s providing it. Hook up that router. Sit back. And watch the crowd pour in. Trust us, they’ll be waiting. With their phones and laptops at the ready.

Michael Jankie is chief executive and co-founder of PoweredLocal, an end-to-end provider of Wi-Fi to small businesses.

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