Purple WiFi lets businesses trade free wireless for valuable customer data

New service offers to help businesses provide free Wi-Fi in exchange for invaluable social marketing.

Thanks to McDonald's and Starbucks, free wireless networking is available every 200 yards or so, at least in metropolitan areas of the United States. Still, many merchants--especially smaller "mom & pop" establishments--don't provide the service. Purple WiFi has a business model that can help these businesses offer free Wi-Fi, and seems like a win-win for both the business and the customers.

Purple Wifi offers software that works with a business' existing broadband connection to provide free Wi-Fi network access for customers. Because users are required to sign-in using a social account, the business gets access to valuable social demographic data, such as the age and gender of customers that use Purple WiFi, when users connect, how long they stay connected, and more.

Purple Wifi also give the business an opportunity to expand their social reach. Upon login, the customer is prompted to "like" the business' Facebook page or follow its Twitter account. According to data shared by Purple WiFi, 87 percent of people make purchasing decisions based on input from friends. They claim that the average Facebook user has 190 friends, and that the monetary value of a single "Like" on Facebook amounts to 85 pounds (about $135 USD).

Purple WiFi offers a few different plans. The base plan is free, but for about $40 per month a business can subscribe to Purple WiFi Premium, which includes custom branding, email and coupon marketing options, content filtering, and deeper demographic information. Remember, though, that the Purple WiFi costs are in addition to whatever you pay for the Internet service itself, and do not include the wireless router hardware.

Currently Purple Wifi works with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but it promises to add Google+, Pinterest, and others in the near future. There is an option for customers who don't have a social network account to fill out a short registration form.

In general, more businesses should provide free Wi-Fi. It's a gesture of good will that creates added value in the eyes of the customer even for people who don't use it. Most businesses already have an Internet connection, and a wireless network even if they only use it for employees and official company business. Why not use a service like Purple WiFi to share the network with customers in exchange for free marketing and invaluable customer demographic data?

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