Wired for Success: Using Internet & TV to Entice Customers

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Providing Wi-Fi, TV, and cable entertainment to your customers is a costly investment. Can it really help generate more sales and customers?

My local café is great; they make the best cappuccinos, the staff is friendly, and the cooks can whip up pumpkin pancakes like nobody’s business. But there’s one thing about the café that I just hate: they don’t offer free Wi-Fi. Their reasoning? They don’t want people sticking around longer than welcomed, taking up space and not spending money.

While this may seem like terrible customer service, they’re not alone in their rational. Only 43 percent of businesses offer free Wi-Fi to customers, many feeling that uninhibited internet connection will invite visitors to sip a $2 coffee for hours, while larger parties have no place to sit. Madison Sourdough, a café in Wisconsin, recently decided to suspend their free Wi-Fi offering on the weekends during peak service times. Like the owners of my local café, Madison Sourdough’s manager David Lehrentz is wary of loitering guests.

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An iGR study of 400 small businesses (retailers, nightclubs, fast food, cafes, salons, and bookstores included) found that 62% of businesses surveyed said their customers spent more time on their premises once Wi-Fi was introduced. Lehrentz’ worries are warranted, but are they justified? Do businesses see a negative ROI when they offer Wi-Fi to customers?

Not at all. In fact, the opposite is true. This same study found that 50% of businesses said revenue increased after the new offering. And additional studies show that this attracts new customers and enhances satisfaction.

A nationwide survey of entrepreneurs and small business decision makers found that internet access keeps customers happy. Respondents of “Main Street” businesses like coffee houses, restaurants, salons, bars, retailers and dentist offices, believe this gives them a competitive advantage. And they’re right. The study found that:

  • 55% of businesses providing Wi-Fi believe it’s resulted in higher sales per customer visit
  • Nearly 80% of businesses claim Wi-Fi keeps customers entertained while they wait for service. 65% say it’s encouraged repeat visits, and 55% think it’s attracted new consumers.
  • Businesses with revenue increases over the past year are more likely to promote their free Wi-Fi access

Customers also expect to have Wi-Fi access. A report from by SapientNitro and GfK Roper, found 63% of consumers would enjoy a shopping experience more if Wi-Fi was available.

If your goal is to appease customers, build trust, and edge out the competition, offer free Wi-Fi. Especially if there’s a wait time in the delivery of your product or service.

What about TV?

Americans love television. According to eMarketer, the average American consumer spends 5 hours 46 minutes a day on digital media (mobile phone included) and 4 hours 28 minutes watching television. People love to be entertained and providing it in the form of cable is a great option for many small businesses. Sports bars, restaurants, salons, and doctors offices provide guests with entertainment while waiting for their food or service.

Whenever the World Cup, the Super Bowl, or any Monday Night Football rolls around, people gather around a TV to watch (preferably with beer and bowls of buffalo wings). According to the National Restaurant Association, one in five consumers watch a national college basketball tournament at a restaurant or bar, and 25% of them will choose an eatery based on the TV and cable quality.

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Small businesses are using televisions beyond sporting events too, using TVs as digital signage to communicate messages with customers, share important news, and offer promotions. Coffee Bean has been doing this for years, and recently, “mom and pop” shops are adopting (and benefiting) from this modern technology as well. Christopher Pugliese, owner of Tompkins Square Bagels in New York, introduced a digital signage screen and found great success. He noticed customers were drawn to the screen and were less fussy when waiting for food.

But as with providing free Wi-Fi, hanging big screens and staying up with the latest technology might seem like a costly and ineffective investment initially, but the ROI is telling. A few years ago, gas stations started installing TVs at pumps. If you’ve pumped gas with Shell recently, you’ve probably enjoyed the few minutes of amusement. Gas Station TV, a provider of screens and content, said stations reported a 75% increase in car washes and a 69% growth in advertised snacks after TV pumps were installed.

People eyes are naturally drawn to screens. Let your customer engage with one on your premises and watch sales spike.

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