Captive Portals Done Right – Learn These Best Practices and Break the Myths

- 13th Mar 2018

Captive Portal Best Practices in a Nutshell

  • The captive portal’s appearance is part of your brand. Its look-and-feel should be inviting and reflective of the business’s character, while the company colors and logo should feature prominently.
  • Attractive, appropriate images capture the user’s attention and further reinforces your corporate identity.
  • Advertising and informative messages should be relevant to the customer, their location and the moment.
  • Advertorials (informational content intended to guide purchase decisions) should be included wherever possible.
  • Remember that the captive portal is not just part of the WiFi system: it is an opportunity to increase revenue and should be treated as such.

Quite a few businesses who offer guest WiFi to their customers hoping to increase sales and customer loyalty end up seeing low conversion rates. The problem most likely is with their ‘captive portal’ page.

For the uninitiated, a captive portal is the website-like page you see between clicking on the WiFi SSID and being able to access the internet. Customers typically view it as an obstacle;  an extra layer of effort to getting free internet. But it’s only because businesses fail to unleash its full potential.

Think of the captive portal as a concierge at a hotel. It greets your guests, attends to their needs and volunteers information that could raise the overall customer experience a few notches. Quite similarly, a captive portal, if used correctly, can be a wonderful marketing tool which engages with your guests even before they connect to your internet.

This blog will help you identify some common captive portal mistakes and also give out tips on how to turn it into a strategic advantage for your brand.

Common Captive Portal Mistakes

In our experience, there are three main reasons why captive portals discourage people from connecting to guest WiFi:

  • There’s Zero Personalization – Our in-house research indicates that the vast majority of captive portals are not personalized to any extent: every user sees exactly the same page. In this day and age, failing to provide an experience tailored to each customer’s expectations almost guarantees that you won’t gain their attention, never mind their loyalty.
  • Unattractive Visual Design – Considering the total amount of money and effort needed to set up effective guest WiFi, neglecting simple things like graphic design and user experience seems a little silly. Trying to cut corners as far as this element goes can turn an otherwise pleasant customer encounter into something that fails to impress.
  • Customers Can’t See Who the Network Belongs To – Customers are wary of connecting to an untrusted network, and for good reason: an unscrupulous network operator can easily use WiFi to steal passwords and personal data. In fact, hackers can set up a spoof network with a name similar to a nearby, legitimate network in order to confuse users. So, if a captive portal cannot reassure a customer that they’re connecting to the right network, chances are they won’t.

Examples of Captive Portals Not Done Right

The following screens illustrate what most people encounter when they log onto WiFi. What they all have in common is, it’s a simple marketing ad that has nothing to do with the person looking at it.

If yours looks like these, it might answer why your connectivity rates are lower than desired.

A retail store shows their terms and conditions on their captive portal page. Improve the page through thoughtful design and pictures that are representative of the brand.
A retail store asks for customer emails on their first visit. A better option would be to either wait until the customer returns to ask for personal information, or improve the design to make it more user friendly.

Turn the Generic Captive Portal Screens Smart

The better kind of location marketing and engagement analytics solutions come with “smart” captive portals. The smart part is that this turns the captive portal into a subtle but effective marketing channel for the enterprise.

The key concept here is, again, personalization. Instead of showing the same vanilla captive portal to every user, the business can configure the system to tailor the content, including any advertising, to a visitor’s persona based on his demonstrated interests and other factors.

How to Personalize Your Captive Portal

While a great deal of customization and creativity is possible here, experience has shown that there are a few hard and fast principles for captive portal personalization that shouldn’t be deviated from too much. Many of these rules are, in practice, defined dynamically, meaning that the analytics system will take several factors into account before deciding on what the customer will see:

Banking customer First National Bank leverages location specific content based on brand, city, and customer entry points.
  • Consider Location – This seems straightforward: you wouldn’t want customers in your New Jersey branch to see a promotional offer that only applies in your Manhattan store. What most people don’t realize is that this can be done on a much more granular level. For example, a department store can configure the captive portals upto the zone level. If it wants to display ‘Rollback Offers’ to visitors in the ground floor home decor zone and display ‘Today’s Specials’ to the customers outside their ‘Sandwich Bar’ on the second floor, it can be done.
Hospitality customer Intercontinental Hotel Group is able to provide relevant and useful content around facilities and activities that can affect their guest experience.
  • Consider the Time and Day – It’s now possible to boost sales and beat transient sales cycles by offering discounts only at specific times. If you find yourself overstocked on some perishable item, you can send coupons to likely buyers while they are actually in store, making them that much more likely to convert. A restaurant might offer 2 for 1 desserts during a quiet spell, and so on. Such a campaign takes minutes to set up and the printing costs involved are zero.
Stadium customer Chelsea Football Club uses a sleek and reflective design to showcase their logo and gathers customer info so they can personalize future engagements.
  • Consider the Customer – The more the guests use your WiFi, the more you get to know about them. The WiFi location technology solution follows the journey of customers through your venue and analyzes their behavior patterns. You can then define different location personas based on visit frequency, dwell time, loyalty program status and a variety of other patterns. If, for instance, the software knows that a given customer tends to do their shopping on weekends, this can be translated into an upselling opportunity.

Making Free WiFi Work for You

The modern consumer easily tunes out signage and other traditional means of connecting businesses with customers. The captive portal, on the other hand, presents your brand in a way that can’t be ignored – and can do a lot more. It represents a wonderful but quite underutilized route to improving the customer experience as well as enhancing profits, with zero marginal cost to you and at no cost at all to your visitors.

Drive personalization at your location using WiFi

Check out the story on how Westfield is leveraging WiFi to build customer personas and Majid-Al-Futtaim group is meeting its customers in-the-moment with personalized engagements.