Competing with the virtual, e-commerce world is becoming increasingly challenging for real-world businesses. Traditional retailers have long envied the massive amounts of valuable data that online retailers have available to help them better understand customer behavior and implement winning marketing tactics. Online retailers know valuable information such as how frequently customers return, how long they spend on their sites, what the customers looked at but didn’t buy, and where they went before and after coming to the site. Businesses as diverse as hotels, banks, stadiums, airports, and large public venues are all looking for ways to get similar detailed data on customer activities in their facilities, so they can improve the customer experience and their bottom lines. The data and insights have not been available to bricks-and-mortar facilities, until now.

That situation is changing through the growing availability of Wi-Fi in business locations. Many retailers, hotels, and other businesses are increasingly offering Wi-Fi as a service that allows their customers to connect mobile devices to the Internet. Hidden in this valuable service is a vast amount of information and insight, which retailers and others can use to deliver tangible value to their bottom lines. Hypersensitive location information, device details, identification of returning customers, and sophisticated path analysis are just some of the customer data captured by Wi-Fi networks. Businesses are now realizing that the data and capabilities offer new ways to improve the customer experience and support a range of market-leading monetization models.

For many businesses, these new location-based experiences and monetization models offer new ways to compete with e-commerce. However, very little is currently known about mobile users’ appetite for these new services, their willingness to use them, or their privacy and security concerns surrounding these data-based services.

To learn more, Cisco conducted a survey of 620 U.S. mobile users to understand their needs and behaviors, use of devices, applications and mobile access technologies, and how they have changed since our 2012 mobile consumer survey.

The study revealed that consumers are very interested in new localized services and solutions that are delivered directly to their mobile devices.  Our findings show that consumers would embrace such services to enhance their experiences in retail locations, airports other large public venues, such as stadiums or shopping malls.  In addition to access to free Wi-Fi, mobile users value the convenience and efficiency of the service, the ability to locate themselves in the venue, and being offered personalized deals or coupons.  However, they are concerned about security on their devices and the use of their personal data.

We explored these personal data concerns in much more detail.  The good news is that consumers are willing to sacrifice some of their privacy and personal data to derive the value of these personalized services, but they want to be in control.  They want to control what data can be used, when and where, and by whom, and they want to control the experience.  Our research revealed that consumers have a “data sharing threshold”.  Beyond this threshold consumers do not feel that the value of the benefit justifies the value, or intimacy, of the personal data that they are being asked to give-up.

Wi-Fi value-added services allow businesses to compete on more equal terms with the data-driven world of e-commerce, and the financial returns more than justify the investment in Wi-Fi infrastructure. Best of all, as our study shows, consumers want these enhanced mobile experiences and the value that they offer.  Of course, consumers have privacy concerns, but these concerns are not insurmountable and incompatible with the new localized services if the insights from the research are incorporated into the design of these services.

The complete results can be found at Unlocking Wi-Fi Enabled Value-Added Services. This white paper is part of a series presenting 2013 Cisco mobile consumer research findings.  Previous blogs and white papers have highlighted What Mobile Consumers Want from Public Wi-Fi and Understanding the Changing Mobile User.


Stuart Taylor


Service Provider Transformation Group