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Lessons learned from U.K.-based wireless provider Purple WiFi

In this article...

  • By finding purpose in data, empowering autonomy and flexibility and focusing on user-friendliness, Purple WiFi translates the data it collects into actionable information
  • Find out how U.K.-based Purple WiFi uses data to drive value for partners and stakeholders

In January 2015, Purple WiFi, a provider of free Wi-Fi in the U.K., raised its first $5 million of outside investment to push its free service overseas. Operating in a competitive market, the company has been experimenting with ways to improve usability and social engagement. The result? Purple WiFi has amassed a wealth of consumer data that the company is just now learning how to optimize. With a goal of translating data-driven insights into tactical value for partners and stakeholders, here are the lessons that the Purple WiFi team is learning along the way.

1. Make sure every data story has a purpose

From weather to demographics, Purple WiFi collects a lot of data. Thanks to the technology’s social media integrations, it's possible to get a comprehensive user view that allows them to understand each person's preferences and interests. The big question, however, is: how can organizations best take action with this data?

“At a basic level, when our users connect to our Wi-Fi from a venue, we collect information that would be useful to the owner of that venue," says Iain Jewitt, head of technology at Purple WiFi. “We look at demographic details in addition to other extra bits of basic information. We might collect weather-related data, for instance, to understand how shopping patterns vary.”

The goal is to tie all of these details that Purple WiFi collects to a specific point of action that business owners and store managers can take in response to the trends that they're seeing.

“For instance, we collect shopping path details so we can track how our Wi-Fi users are moving through the aisles of stores,” says Jewitt. “If you’re into a particular band—say you’ve liked them on Facebook—and you’re in a music store next to digital signage, we can actually show adverts for that band right next to you.”

2. Empower autonomy and flexibility for analysis

Purple WiFi's goal is to collect and package data that its business partners will find helpful. Part of that vision means giving partners the flexibility and autonomy that they need to customize the right solution.

“We try very hard not to put those data stories in our partners’ minds," says Jewitt. “What we want to do is give them all the data and the tools to analyze that data.”

This process means giving partners the technology capabilities and transparency that they need to self-direct their own processes. Purple WiFi has also created a feedback loop to study what their customers are doing. For example, airports are using Purple WiFi to better understand the needs of passengers who are in transit.

“We make sure that every data point we collect can integrate with our partners’ tools and CRM,” says Jewitt. “We watch what our partners are up to, but from a distance. We keep an eye on available opportunities without being invasive or stepping on privacy toes.”

“Airports are using Purple WiFi to better understand the needs of passengers who are in transit.”

3. Focus on user-friendliness

When it comes to working with data, the story that you're looking to tell is in the eye of the beholder. Each team member will bring a unique perspective to a dataset, and it’s important to make sure that multiple perspectives are heard.

“We’ve got a very user-friendly system already where you can come in through the portal and see all the data lined up in reports. It is very user-friendly,” says Jewitt. “But what we want to do now is take it to the next level, allowing people to build out their own reports, build out their own analytics and really create the stories they want to see.”

If you want team members to derive meaning from data, you need to empower them with the tools that they need to explore it.

“We’re giving people the tools that they need to set up their own analysis engines,” says Jewitt. “We want to deliver a smooth, consistent experience without being inhibitive or causing unnecessary friction.”

What’s next?

Purple WiFi is a tech story in the making. The company has launched with the basics—a REST API coupled with CRM integrations—as a platform to build upon and grow.

“We want to see what people do with the data that we’re making available,” says Jewitt.

From there, the Purple WiFi team is looking to listen, learn and develop new features.

“We’re really about seeing how many opportunities we can open, how many channels we can open and how much information we can collect, but obviously, at the same time, always keeping privacy in mind.”

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