Opt-in marketing isn’t a new thing. In fact, it goes as far back as magazines, catalogues, and newspapers and these days most companies now use some form of direct marketing to find new customers and to keep in touch with their existing base. Our own guest WiFi solution, for example, is designed to help hoteliers and other business to capture guest data, including email addresses, to enable them to match visitors with information already held in their CRM or PMS systems and to build a more effective marketing database, what we term ‘WiFi marketing’.
At Airangel, we are seeing an increasing number of providers offering hotel WiFi solutions as an effective means for businesses to collect user data. It has become somewhat the norm to ask for an email address (and other contextual data), partly to help identify people using the network should they be doing something naughty, but in reality this is just simple an exchange – you get access to the internet in exchange for handing over your contact details to receive ongoing marketing emails. There are variations to this model where guests are asked to log in using social media but the result is the same. This is the new cost for public WiFi access.
The responsible provider will give the user a clear method to opt-out of receiving emails at the point of log in. However, there are lots out there that simply add a line or two in the terms and conditions stating that by using the service you are willing for this to happen; a somewhat questionable approach but a very popular one.
What is an email address worth?
So, what are businesses afraid of? Why wouldn’t you want to give people a clear way to opt out? If your customers are not interested in receiving any more information, then why send it? By sending unwanted communications, filling up inboxes with spam emails is only going to annoy and put off your customers. In my view, if you have done your job correctly, you will have teams of engaged people just waiting to hear from you with your latest info, offers, and updates. These are the customers that are not going to opt-out, these are the loyal ones who are more likely to keep spending, plus they are more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, and co-workers. So shouldn’t they have a clear choice?
There are many studies out there about what an email address is worth. I once heard that to one well know luxury car manufacturer, an email address captured on the showroom’s guest WiFi could be worth as much as £10k. This based on the assumption that they managed to bag a sale from follow-up promotions by enticing undecided customers back to the forecourt. But for hotels, just grabbing email addresses from everyone and anyone who use the WiFi is not going to hold much value. For every one email address collected from an engaged customer, there will be countless others belonging to those that are just not interested and how will you know the difference? Also, just blanket sending out the same offers and promotions to them all is not the answer.
What is the answer?
We are advising our customers to approach things differently. We don’t want them applying consent in their terms and conditions, or even adding a tick box asking guests to opt in our out. Instead, guests should be given two options, they can login in using one click, without providing any info (we can still monitor naughty behaviour), or by providing an email address only if they really want to receive future offers and promotions. That’s it. There’s no additional reward for handing over email addresses, everyone gets the same level of service, the same bandwidth, and time online. It is all made very clear, as too are the results. Instead of forcing people to provide an email address, where you are likely to get countless Micky Mouse or Donald Ducks, you get good quality clean data from interested parties.
One of our customers, a prestigious hotel in London, using this method managed to capture over 7,000 email addresses in less than a month. That is 7,000 guests who are ‘opted in’ and are genuinely interested in receiving information about this hotel and others in the group. Potentially, that’s 84,000 new addresses over the course of a year. At around £200 – £300 per room, even if just 1% of guests book, or re-book at the lower rate as a result, that’s £168,000 of revenue generated from one hotel. With these numbers, it’s not long before investment for providing guest WiFi will be recouped and without the need for spam.