Why use a captive portal? To discover your hidden customers.

No one likes unnecessary friction.Technology has been the primary driving force in reducing friction, replacing long lines at the airport counter with self service kiosks, long call wait times with instant chats, and paper concert tickets with mobile devices. Businesses know that removing friction from the customer experience is essential to happy loyal customers. Customers also want fast reliable onsite connectivity, but when it comes to allowing unknown visitors on to a guest network, however tempting it may be to remove all friction in the name of ease, the goal should be to reduce friction while providing a safe and engaging experience for end users. 


Captive portals or network authentication is the process of identifying and interacting with guests users upon their connection to Wi-Fi.  Digitally this is no different than greeting customers as they enter a store or verifying a ticket at the gate.  For organizations which operate commercial spaces it provides you a key opportunity to identify new customer profiles, learn about them to inform your marketing, gain permission to contact them and provide content and calls to action to improve their experience.  All of these benefits should be a priority for any organization, however they get drowned out in debate on what is the purpose of providing guest Wi-Fi access. 


The debate around adding a captive portal to a guest network continues to rage on with no clear end insight.  The reasons for disagreement come from the same place most disagreements arise-- difference in perspective. Businesses participating in these debates often have different goals- for example, if someone measures their product or functions success by the total number of devices attached to a network removing all friction makes sense as a goal.  However, a customer experience manager or marketer who is responsible for driving additional revenue,  and the ability to capture net/new promotable customer profiles, zero friction equals zero new customers.  


Nothing is ever one size fits all, so when an organization is looking at a decision to leverage Wi-Fi for marketing purposes it is helpful to answer the following questions.


      1. Does your organization benefit from an increase in valid new profiles in your CRM, Email or Marketing systems? 
      2. Are you spending resources to connect with qualified prospects or new customers?
      3. Is your data coverage on shoppers, fans and visitors less than 100% perfect and have some gaps? 


If the answer is yes, to any of these questions optimizing the Wi-Fi process and adding a low friction captive portal becomes the clear decision.  


Optimization is rarely a binary choice; i.e. do it or not do it.  Often optimizing a captive portal experience comes to balancing the friction for the visitor with the goals of the organization.  Poorly executed captive portals definitely influence this debate within organizations.  Having spent about a decade helping organizations make the right decisions around Wi-Fi marketing, it is clear that a business’s prior experiences with captive portals with poor creative and branding, lacking multi-channel or omni-channel awareness, or are repetitive for guests push the conversation towards forgoing the untapped value of a guest Wi-Fi portal and defaulting to a no friction experience.  The correct way to think about why you should use a captive portal is to focus on the benefits of increased customer profile growth and engagement and know there are a few tools and people out there that can help this customer touch point live up to your brand’s promises.  

Solutions & Options


Infrastructure Details
Cisco Meraki
Extreme Networks
Juniper Mist

Devices Affected

Wi-Fi Integrations