Hotspot Users Ready to Spend

By Naomi Graychase

August 31, 2009

A new "Mobile Audience Insights Report" released today by JiWire shows its hotspot users are predominantly affluent male decision-makers between the ages of 25-49 with either a laptop PC, an iPhone--or both. And apparently, they want you to sell them something--something big.

It’s clear from every metric that both the popularity and availability of Wi-Fi are growing by leaps and bounds from quarter to quarter—and sometimes, it seems, from moment to moment. A new study out today from JiWire, a “mobile audience media company” with corporate headquarters in San Francisco, CA, offers not just further proof of Wi-Fi’s steady climb, but insight into who is using Wi-Fi at public hotspots and what they are doing while online.

20 million Wi-Fi users can’t be wrong

JiWire, which partners with major operators, including Boingo, AT&T, and T-Mobile, claims it sees over 20 million unique users per month across its Wi-Fi media channel, which includes more than 30,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in locations, such as cafés, hotels, and airports. In its “Mobile Audience Insights Report,” it presents new data gleaned from those hotspots that reveal some interesting demographics and behavioral trends among Wi-Fi users. For instance, the study shows that the café Wi-Fi audience is mostly affluent males between the ages of 25 and 49 who, JiWire wants to remind its advertising clients, say they plan to make a big purchase—either for business or pleasure or both—in the near future.

The Mobile Audience report, which includes breakdowns by country, U.S. city, and device type, confirms one thing we already know: mobile consumption of Wi-Fi is both significant and increasing. JiWire says the number of mobile devices accessing Wi-Fi hotspots grew by 79 percent in the first half of 2009 and that the total number of users also went up by 18.4% (from December 2008 to June 2009).

“The report provides a sense of what’s happening with Wi-Fi, in general. It’s becoming the preferred connection method for laptops and mobile devices,” David Staas, JiWire’s SVP of Marketing told Wi-Fi Planet.

The whole world in your hand

It’s no surprise that Apple users lead the way, with iPhone and iPod touch out in front as the most popular Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices. Collectively these two gadgets represent almost all (97.8 percent) of mobile device connections at JiWire hotspots. (It probably doesn’t hurt that iPhone users may have access to more free Wi-Fi than other device users at the hotspots.) Surprisingly, though, the Palm Pre had a strong showing when it debuted as the fifth most popular mobile device in June 2009, just 24 days after it launched. [Stay tuned for our Palm Pre review coming next month.]

Also in the top ten: PSP, Nokia N-95 and 770, WinCE devices (collectively), and BlackBerry 8120, 8820 (RIM’s first Wi-Fi-enabled model), and 9530.

Doing business as

Among the other demographic figures that stand out, is the equally strong showing among small business owners/employees and enterprise employees who work out of cafés with hotspots. [Perhaps this is a good time for us to remind you to read Hotspot Safety for Business Users.]

The JiWire report includes a survey of 2,057 randomly selected volunteers at 6,500 café hotspots across the U.S. It showed that most users are male, upscale, and management, and that they are equally likely to be employed at a small business as at a mid-sized or large enterprise. 44% of those surveyed identified their company size as “1-99” and 44% also indicated their company size was 100 or more. (30% of those respondents were from large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees and 14% fell in the “100-999” range).

Men with spending power dominated the survey. More than two-thirds of users (67%) fell into the lucrative 24- to 49 year-old age bracket and nearly three-quarters (74%) were male. 40% of respondents said they held management titles; 23% were students. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents earn more than $50,000 and 40% hold management titles.

This is good news for JiWire, which conducted the survey primarily to provide data to its clients who are seeking to advertise to hotspot users.

“Marketers are trying to understand what are the new channels. My audience is spending less time at home and at the office--how do I communicate to them if they are not in front of their computer at home, or typical channels? I need new strategies for connecting on the go,” says Staas.

Pay for play

Worldwide, the overall number of Wi-Fi hotspots continues to grow. Since June of 2004, JiWire's network has seen 400% growth, up from 53,746 hotspots to 258,853, according to JiWire’s data. Growth in 2009 (January-June) is commencing at a respectable 9% rate.

The United States continues to lead the world in total number of public Wi-Fi hotspots with 67,420 recorded by JiWire, more than twice the number in the next highest country on the list, China (28,678). The UK (27,459), France (25,619), and Russia (14,499) fill out the top five.

In the U.S., New York City (887) edges out San Francisco (872) for top honors. Chicago (792), Seattle (625), and Houston (617) finished third, fourth, and fifth, respectively. Hotspots that are not part of the JiWire network, such as Meraki's, are not included in the data.

While free, public hotspots do make a showing, the vast majority of public hotspots in JiWire's network (81%) worldwide are paid. Most public hotspot users (55.3%) are at hotels and resorts.

The shop around the cornerJiWire_CafeTime.jpg

Despite Wi-Fi’s growing availability in travel-related venues, though, the vast majority of users taking JiWire’s café survey are using Wi-Fi close to home. 83% reported that they are connecting locally. Of those, 40% indicated that they connected for work only; 19% said they connected for fun only.

Most café hotspot laptop users are surfing—and apparently, shopping—on PCs. 74.4% identified themselves as PC users. However, when it comes to other Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices, café hotspot users are resoundingly (97.6%) Mac users.

Most (85%) visit a Wi-Fi café at least once a week; 29% log on at a hotspot daily. And 68% of them stay connected for more than an hour.

Buying power

The great news for marketers is that hotspot users seem to have a lot of money—and they want to spend it. 77% said they planned to make a big purchase—vacations, laptops, vehicles, smartphones, stocks—in the next twelve months. 38% of those will make their purchases directly from a hotspot.

“Our goal is understanding who they are what they’re doing and how you can take advantage of that,” says Staas.

Consumers accessing the Web via public hotspots can expect to see more targeted, location-based ad campaigns coming their way.

“We know the location of every hotspot,” says Stass. “We know exactly where [the users] are. We can layer location targeting on top of an ad campaign. So, if we see someone connecting in a local café, an automotive company is giving its address and driving directions to the nearest dealership for a call to action to come in for a test drive. Or with a theater, ‘Click here’ for tickets at the nearest theater for a movie launch.”

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi Planet.

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