In light of a recent study that shows how customers prefer free Wi-Fi to free treats, the latest news from Google may just be what small to midsize businesses (SMBs) need to keep shoppers happy. ZDNet reports that Google plans to soon offer subsidized, commercial-class Wi-Fi software and hardware to SMBs.
TechCrunch reports that it could be a win/win situation for both SMBs and Google as it would “greatly improve the quality of the Wi-Fi experience at places like doctor’s offices, restaurants, gyms and more,” and for the tech giant it will bring in more users:
The plan is to get better Wi-Fi in the hands of these businesses in order to get more users working on Google apps and services, which ultimately means more customers spending more time engaging with Google’s money-making products, even when they’re away from their usual home and work Wi-Fi networks.
However, ZDNet sees a slightly more nefarious reason behind the SMB deal:
Such a scheme will provide wider connectivity in our cities, but could also provide Google with a valuable data channel that can be monetized through advertisers and marketing companies. SMBs signing up for the project, and customers using wi-fi hotspots, may be required to "sign in" with a Google account when using the service, giving Google the opportunity to gather data on customers and clients. This, in turn, could let Google recoup losses from the subsidized tech by selling on data for targeted marketing.
According to the report, Google will share some data with business owners to sweeten the deal and let them learn about their customers' habits.
CBROnline spins a slightly more positive side for Wi-Fi users, though. Apparently users with a Google account could auto-authenticate to the hotspots whenever they are in range, reducing the need to login every time they change locations.
Considering that Google already gathers lots of data on its users to supply customized ads on pages, it’s not such a revolting thought to think the company would also collect customer information in exchange for a decent Wi-Fi experience. Plus, the deal would seem to favor SMBs in that they could not only attract and possibly retain good customers, but the companies could also gain data from Google that gives them insight into the customers’ habits that could help increase sales.