WiFi in a franchised world

Most of us will be aware of the term “franchise” which is the practice of leasing the rights to duplicate a successful business model and its brand.

A great alternative for a new startup business to springboard off the back of an established business which already has brand presence, potential customer base, and a sound reputation within its marketplace.

Fundamentally, when you are running a franchised business model, the key to success is consistency. Whichever sector the franchise operates in, be it hotels and restaurants, car dealers or retail outlets, I expect the same experience every time, wherever I am in the the world.

With a franchise, I buy in to the brand, and my own experiences it delivers. The fact it is provided by hundreds or even thousands of different people and companies globally remains irrelevant.

Unfortunately, at present, this is not the case for WiFi. If I have logged-in to free WiFi in a franchised fast food outlet, for example, would I be right to assume I can go into another branch and still be automatically connected to the internet?

There has never been a good, global solution to giving people a consistent public WiFi experience. Purple WiFi’s recent survey showed 54 per cent of respondents think that a “free WiFi” sticker means they will be automatically connected to the internet. Of those who did realise that they need to connect to the SSID (WiFi hotspots name) themselves, most didn’t understand that they have to open a web browser window in order to complete the process of connecting to the WiFi.

In most countries you’ll find that mobile network operators and some broadband service providers already have a consistent solution. However, this is typically limited to those countries who bundle together connectivity, hardware and maintenance contracts along with their guest WiFi solution. Their primary focus was never to offer guest WiFi; instead, this demand was created by enhancements in mobile technology and social connectivity, hence the issue.

Rolling the solution out across many countries is not particularly scalable. Throw in different legislation around the world concerning data protection, retention and preventing illegal activity online and you’ve got a minefield.

Culture is also another consideration that affects a unified solution for WiFi. In Europe people are perfectly used to registration forms and verifying email addresses or mobile numbers. In some parts of the world it wasn’t out of the ordinary to be asked for your Passport ID to get online, up until very recently. In contrast, people in the US expect to ‘click to connect’, there aren’t too many laws to worry about and therefore it’s all about being quick and convenient.

Imagine walking into any hotel chain and being instantly connected to the WiFi, no logon, no more forms and a consistent, ‘on brand’ experience. It’s what frequent travellers dream of. Once this occurs it’s likely that the user would get used to this new luxury very quickly, take it for granted and question why it hasn’t always been like this?

Like a good franchise, the best technology is invisible because most people don’t care about the complexity of what sits behind it, nor do they care about countries, cultures and laws. They just want their expectations to be met.

It might seem like another technological advance that would be nice to have but would be far too costly, complex or simply impossible. Yet it is actually achievable and with considerable ease today.

Using a cloud based guest WiFi solution such as Purple WiFi, you can have one single, unified, consistent overlay in every venue all around the world.

For you as the franchisor offering WiFi, you get a consistent brand, centralized analytics and real time monitoring of every property across the globe. Your franchisee gets exactly the same too. They just get a restricted view of their own world, however big or small that is.

Regardless of whether you stick to one underlying technology, or allow franchises to choose their own, your end users will never know the difference. They get what they want; technology that automatically connects them to WiFi without them even having to think about it and maximised customer satisfaction.

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO, Purple WiFi.

Image credit: Shutterstock/Georgejmclittle