GoZoneWiFi targets NFL cities with hosted, 'inside-out' Wi-Fi strategy

A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., startup is targeting tourist destinations with its Wi-Fi geo-advertising platform, bringing Wi-Fi to cities in an "inside-out" sort of strategy.

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GoZoneWiFi targets zones within cities to offer hosted Wi-Fi. (Image source: GoZoneWiFi)

According to CEO Todd Myers, whose experience with Wi-Fi goes back to its earliest deployments in airports, GoZoneWiFi is a game changer that turns traditional guest Wi-Fi into a marketing tool that engages nearby Wi-Fi users.

With earlier installations of Wi-Fi in cities like Philadelphia, a consumer would walk into a restaurant and the signal would die because the gear was installed on outside poles. With GoZoneWiFi, the company is partnering with hosts--like bars and restaurants--that install its equipment for free, with ads showing up on splash pages when users log in.

"We're partnering with the hosts," Myers told FierceWirelessTech, bringing Wi-Fi into venues and "building it from the inside out. That's really where the people are," he added. "We build where the people are. It makes it a lot easier to use and relevant."

In Miami Beach, Fla., GoZone has about 14 locations that are hosts, so as consumers visit Johnny Rockets, for example, they will see a splash welcome page on their smartphone or tablet that directs them to a landing page. The Marriott hotel chain, for example, is a GoZone advertiser, so when users visit the Miami Beach Johnny Rockets, they'll see an ad for Marriott Key West Beachside, which makes sense for someone who's in that area. "It's a nice way for the advertiser to really geo-target their customer base," Myers said.  

"We try to focus on zones," he said, with Miami Beach representing a zone with several hosts on Ocean Drive and the Lincoln road area. "The beauty of it is, if you're in Miami Beach and you go from location to location, your phone doesn't disconnect from the network. So you can always stay attached to the network." 

The company's platform is two-fold. First, it allows the venue operator to customize the branding on the splash screen, giving the user an easy way to log in with a "connect" button without having to ask the bartender or waiter for a password, as is typically the case. The venue owner can see how many people are logging in and if it chooses, it can send an email with a coupon for some kind of discount in the future. Other metrics are available as well. 

The company's plan is to target 25 NFL cities next year and "wherever tourists are is where we plan to go," Myers said. The company operates with a staff of six. Myers said that in a way, it reminds him of Airpath Wireless, an airport-focused Wi-Fi company he started in 2001. He also was co-founder of Opti-Fi Networks, which focused on the aviation and government markets; its assets were sold to Boingo Wireless in 2008.

GoZoneWiFi is self-funded and is using a sponsorship program whereby it presents its plans to local chambers of commerce or economic development groups--not city governments. It's up to the local groups to come up with the money to pay for the equipment up front and GoZone will take care of managing it.

In Sylvania, a suburb of Toledo, Ohio, for example, the company is working with an economic development group that wants to attract business to the area. Sylvania is home to eight hosts, all using mesh equipment, so users do not have to log off and back on as they move around the area.

Generally speaking, more than one vendor supplies the hardware; in some of the larger venues, GoZone is installing Ubiquiti Networks hardware, and in some of the smaller venues, it's using Open-Mesh. "We can interoperate with whatever hardware makes sense for the terrain or venue," Myers said. Most of the costs are in the platform; GoZone owns the rights to that, which includes authentication to ensure networks are secure.

With GoZoneWiFi, advertisers are reporting average click-through rates of 8.5 percent and some are even reporting double-digit click rates. The advertising works because it's geo-targeted and relevant, Myers said.  

A taxi company in one of its host cities is trying to gain market share against Uber. Since a lot of GoZone's host locations are in trendy bars and restaurants, the cab company is targeting certain venues so that as patrons connect to Wi-Fi, they see the ad for the taxi company and download an app or schedule a taxi for a particular time.

For more:
- see this Mobile Marketer story

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