Survey: SMBs say WiFi is ‘better than candy’

90 percent of ‘Main Street’ business owners surveyed said offering WiFi does more to make customers feel welcome than offering candy does.

A recent survey of small-business IT decision makers and entrepreneurs, sponsored by Comcast Business and carried out by Bredin Research, “found that offering free WiFi works better at keeping customers happy than common waiting-area conveniences like candy, water or magazines,” Comcast said when announcing the survey’s results. Comcast refers to the 1- to 10-employee companies surveyed as “Main Street businesses”; 602 principals and IT decision makers from these companies participated in the survey.

“These Main Street businesses that offer WiFi—coffee shops, bars, restaurants, retailers, doctor’s offices and others—are leveraging the service to attract new clientele, improve customer loyalty and raise their profile within the community,” Comcast said. “Respondents who indicated they do not currently offer WiFi also understand the benefits of offering the service in their location, and overwhelmingly their intention is to offer it in the near future.” Specifically, 61 percent of those not currently offering WiFi either plan to offer it soon or would consider providing it, the survey found.

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Comcast Business’s president Bill Stemper commented, “Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs of all types recognize that wireless Internet access is a must for their patrons, and that providing free WiFi can give them a competitive edge. More and more, we are seeing that if a business provides WiFi now to its employees for business purposes, extending access to its customers is a logical next step that is a way to keep them coming back in the future. Given the challenges that small businesses face in today’s uncertain economy, we are encouraged that technologies like WiFi will help sustain growth.”

Business growth was indeed a recurring theme in the survey results, as can be seen in the following data reported by Comcast.

  • Main Street business owners say that WiFi is equally or more effective at making patrons feel welcome than other amenities such as magazines (94 percent), community bulletin boards (91 percent), candy (90 percent), or water (86 percent).
  • 79 percent say WiFi helps keep customers happy while they wait; 65 percent report it has encouraged repeat business, and 55 percent say it has brought in new customers.
  • More than half—55 percent—of businesses providing WiFi believe it has resulted in higher sales per customer visit.
  • Businesses that expected increased revenues in 2013 are more likely to promote the WiFi they offer (64 percent) than those that expected decreased revenues (38 percent). “In turn, customers are more likely to promote these businesses through their social media channels,” Comcast noted.
  • Fears of tech support (33 percent), employee distraction (33 percent) and costs (32 percent) are reasons cited for not offering WiFi to patrons.
  • Respondents recognize the benefits of offering WiFi, including raising their company profile (cited by 41 percent of respondents) and keeping up with the competition (cited by 38 percent). “Of those Main Street businesses that currently don’t offer WiFi to patrons, 61 percent plan to offer it soon or would consider providing it,” Comcast reiterated.
  • Close to 20 percent of those surveyed promote themselves as “community hubs,” such as a meeting place for church groups, sports clubs or other community groups.
  • Two-thirds—67 percent—of businesses that offer WiFi to their customers expect revenue growth. Of the businesses that do not offer WiFi, 50 percent expect revenue growth.

Separate from offering WiFi to patrons, respondents’ employees use WiFi for business purposes such as accessing corporate resources (49 percent), tracking inventory (36 percent) and holding conferences with business partners and customers (35 percent). Ninety-three percent of these businesses believe that WiFi enhances productivity.

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