The Internet of Things is upon us – Google recently updated their search engine algorithms to favor mobile-friendly websites. The move is in response to the rise in mobile searches. People are using the Internet more and more frequently on mobile devices, and they expect to be able to access high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots while on the go.

More and more large businesses are rushing to meet the demand of providing free Wi-Fi for customers. Home Depot, Target, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble are among the major national chains providing free Wi-Fi access to their customers. If you have a business where customers linger, offering free Wi-Fi can provide a slew of benefits.

Small Businesses Get Increased Foot Traffic

Your business may be a brick-and-mortar location, but it takes more than a sign spinner on the corner to gain foot traffic. Many people use GPS and social mapping services like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Foursquare and Yelp to search for businesses. Often they’ll even specifically search for amenities, such as Wi-Fi.

Offering fast, free Wi-Fi at your business and listing it as an amenity on these services can literally put your business on the map for people who would otherwise not notice you. In addition, customers passing by looking to connect to the Internet will see your Wi-Fi network, providing free advertising on mobile devices.

Customers Spend More Time at Your Business

Businesses like gyms, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops benefit from customers spending more time on the premises. One of the reasons Starbucks became so successful is because they turned a coffee shop into a place to hang out. When people start spending more time at your business, viral word-of-mouth (i.e. – free marketing) spreads, and you become the town’s new hotspot.

Customers Spend More Money

Customers spending more time at a business inevitably spend more money, but that’s not the only return on investment business owners will see when offering free Wi-Fi to customers. A recent survey from Shopatron found 86% of customers consult their mobile phone before making a purchase.

Mobile apps like ShopSavvy and Shopkick allow customers to compare prices and gain rewards for shopping, while PayPal and Google Wallet allow customers to pay using their mobile devices. Accepting these services helps, but it takes a Wi-Fi connection to ensure they work without downtime while on the premises.

Search Engine Ranking Improve

Not only is Google favoring mobile-friendly sites, they’re also beginning to index content from iOS apps. This means Google searches made on the iPhone and iPad will search not only the Internet, but all of the devices apps. With your business listed on the apps described above (such as Apple Maps and Foursquare) the overall search profile will be raised, making it more likely to show up in search results and be clicked by customers.

Increased Customer Tracking

Offering free Wi-Fi doesn’t just benefit customers. With you in control of the network connection, you can set your website as the homepage, collect customer data, and target ads directly to their devices. This ensures all customers are aware of specials, add-ons, and other services offered, without depending on employees to hard sell customers.

It’s not necessary for every business, but any place customers shop or spend their time at can benefit by offering free Wi-Fi to customers. Increased visibility, data collection, and revenue are among the benefits of providing an Internet connection to customers. Google favors mobile sites because more and more searches are occurring on the go. Enabling these searches at your business is a great way to motivate customers to frequent your business.