The average American spends 34 hours per month using the mobile internet on smartphones and 27 hours on the Internet from a computer1.   Think about it…that’s 71 hours a month! Those hours aren’t just accrued at home and at the office.  Americans are online, all the time, wherever they are.

It’s no secret that people want to be connected. Today, there’s an expectation for constant connectivity – and mobile internet alone isn’t enough. People want Wi-Fi. They want it everywhere. And they don’t want to pay for it.

The expectation for Wi-Fi has flooded into more and more small businesses as the public’s appetite for Wi-Fi increases. Without an IT staff, providing Wi-Fi might seem challenging. But smart businesses with the right managed Wi-Fi solution can use it as an opportunity. 

Oil & Vinegar in Dallas, TX is a great example of this. This culinary gift shop recognized the value in connecting with its customers and offering a unique shopping experience. I asked Cheryl Kobza, the local franchise owner, to share some thoughts on why she believes providing free Wi-Fi is important – and how that’s impacted her business.  Here’s what she shared with me:

Cheryl, tell us a little bit about the decision to bring Wi-Fi to your Oil & Vinegar locations. 

One of our main objectives is to educate our customers about how to use our products and take advantage of the health benefits the offer.  Oil & Vinegar is a specialty retail franchise based in The Netherlands that offers a wide array of gourmet oils, vinegars and culinary products from around the world.  Whether you are shopping for a unique and tasteful gift or quality culinary products for your own use, our goal is to share our passion about taste. 

We offer a unique shopping experience to our customers by providing tastings throughout the store and occasional cooking demonstrations from our resident chefs.  Our customers are always asking for the recipes as well as other tips for using our wide variety of products, most of which come from the Mediterranean. Having free Wi-Fi in the store allows the customer the convenience of accessing those recipes and tips directly on their phone while in the store.  A customer may never have heard of Passion Fruit Balsamic Vinegar before – having Wi-Fi allows us to take their in-store exploration and education to the next level, and then have access to the information via the web when they reconnect at home.

What were some of the considerations and challenges you faced when determining whether to offer Wi-Fi to your customers?

We needed something that was easy to install, and was reliable and managed in order to avoid our employees having to try and answer Wi-Fi questions instead of educating our guests about our products.

Cost was also a factor.  While we knew it was important to our customers and to our business, we needed a solution that wasn’t going to be a major financial commitment.

Working with a company that we knew and trusted was also important to us.   We’ve had success relying on AT&T for all of our other communications needs; so it made sense to turn to them for our Wi-Fi needs as well.

What feedback have you received from your customers?

The feedback from our customers has been positive. We recently added signage throughout the store that offers QR codes with links to recipes and product information.  This has been a huge hit for our customers and important to our bottom-line.  As I mentioned before, educating our customers and giving them ideas for how to use their products once they get home has been one of our biggest service priorities.   Having the free Wi-Fi in the store has given us additional opportunities to educate as well as eliminate paper waste.

We’ve just opened our second location in the Plano area at the Shops at Legacy.  We’ve already installed AT&T Wi-Fi Small Site for that location and social media played a major part in our opening campaign. We’re confident this will enhance customer satisfaction and draw in more sales over time, as we create an environment that encourages our customer to get creative with their shopping lists and recipes.

1Neilson, The U.S. Digital Consumer Report, Feb. 2014.

Learn more in our press release.

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