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Captive portals: What are they for, and how do they work?

In this blog, we’ll be discussing the burning questions which surround captive portals and explaining how they work within marketing and business processes.

What is a captive portal?

A captive portal is a web or splash page displayed before end-users can authenticate onto WiFi (another examples being services or servers, etc), typically by using a desktop computer or mobile device. 

Quite often, captive portals display login interfaces for guest WiFi connections, like those you find in restaurants, cafes, airport lounges, and hotels. Businesses can then make the most of these portals to capture key insights into customers that enter their physical venue/store.

Captive portal examples by Purple

captive portal software examples
A range of industry mock splash pages

Want to try making your own splash page? Check out our Splash Page Creator.

What kind of data can be collected?

Depending on the end-users log-in method, there is a range of useful insights that can be collected. When using a social method such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the captive portal will attain demographic information such as age, gender, location, and interests (this is also known as ‘Primary Data’ meaning first hand).

When an email is used to create an account, end users aren’t sharing the same amount of data that a social profile provides, rather a direct method for organizations to contact them. This ability to have direct marketing communications with customers can incredibly benefit businesses’ outreach, retention, and upsell capabilities.

How do captive portals work?

In technical terms, the captive portal feature is a software implementation that blocks clients from accessing a network until user verification has been established. You can set up verification to allow access for both guests and authenticated users. Authenticated users must be validated against a database list of approved user details before access is granted. User information can be gathered using registration forms or enabling sign-in with social media or email accounts.

In its simplest form, customer captive portals allow access to a business or venue’s wireless network once users have completed a registration form or authenticated using social media login options.

This creates a value exchange for both parties, the guest is provided with access to free internet for as long as the details are held, and the organization is able to collect key demographic insights into their guests. By collecting customer insights, businesses are able to create customer profiles with greater depth, which can lead to informed business decisions that enhance the overall customer experience.

When collecting customer data, or any kind of data, organizations must ensure it’s held safely and with restricted access to protect patrons and brand reputation. With the right setup, captive portals are just the first step in attaining a wealth of information.

How can I introduce my own captive portal?

In order to take advantage of captive portal benefits, businesses must create or implement a solution that satisfies the following requirements:

  • An easy-to-use user interface – Customers are always looking for an experience they won’t forget, and accessing WiFi should be the most straightforward part. Providing a smooth, easy, and pleasantly interactive method of getting online is one more reason for customers to leave a positive review (asking for feedback is something that could be included while customers get online).
  • The capability of gathering informationWith GREAT data, comes GREAT responsibility! Businesses need to ensure that the data they collect is stored safely and securely. Using HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) to deliver 
  • Content delivery mechanism – With all the possible insights that can be collected, you need to be able to action them. Ensure that you have an integrated method to deliver actionable and valuable content to your customers.
  • Seamless integration with a back-end datastore – By using an integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) like with Purple or an implemented one such as Salesforce, businesses can better handle their customers’ data, measure sales performance, and attain actionable insights. In order to continue gathering valuable insights, businesses must enhance their customer offering with deals and reward-based purchasing that integrates with outbound marketing.

Ability to customize to fit customers’ needs – Over time what customers come to expect and their attitude towards a business will change, this isn’t a bad thing. By using reviews to understand what customers want and how to use that information is incredibly important, so for businesses, making it easy for customers to tell you is a must.

Once you have these elements in place, you can create and use a captive portal to your advantage.

What are the benefits of using captive portals?

  1. Capture richer data – Allow for progressive profiling with the use of custom fields, allowing you to ask customers to provide additional information as to what you already hold on them, allowing you to enrich your current customer profiles and start to build out more targeted marketing campaigns.
  2. Stops users from hogging bandwidth – Users can hog bandwidth when on the network and slow your system if you’re not careful. To prevent this, businesses often create a customized plan that places restrictions on things like the number and size of files they can download per session.
  3. Combine with analytics to understand customer behavior – Use reports such as frequency and recency to understand the behavior of your customers.
  4. Generate revenue – Some businesses that use this feature will have guests pay for their usage when they log in, or use the portal as a billboard and sell ad space to other companies.
  5. Protect customer’s privacy – Hackers can exploit the security vulnerabilities of guest WiFi connections by setting up a fake wireless network. Customers access their networks instead of yours. It’s called phishing. And it’s deadly.

Check out Purple’s WiFi solution and it’s features!

WiFi Analytics – Get to know your customers and their in-store habits

Marketing Automation – Influence visitor behavior, maximize engagement, and boost profits

Surveys – Get a complete understanding of customer sentiment

Reviews – Get more reviews, boost your online presence, and beat the competition

Social WiFi – Get visitors online faster using their social media credentials

Tiered Bandwidth – Drive revenue directly from your guest WiFi

Content Filtering – Protect your visitors with content filtering

Multilingual – Guest WiFi as diverse as your visitors

MyData Portal – Protect your business and protect your visitors

Add this graphic and more to your website using our simple embeddable code! Captive Portal Embeddable images

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