UniFi Guest Portal Email Capture for Marketing

The UniFi network is ready, with new shiny access points, switches and the trademark steady blue lights. On a hardware and network level, you may feel that your work is done. On another level however, the guest portal can create extra value for many years to come. UniFi guest portal email capture is an amazing way to provide something really valuable to a venues marketing team. Capturing guest email is the first and most important step, but beyond that it can open the door to making all other marketing tools work much better for businesses who offer WiFi to customers

What is the UniFi Guest Portal

The UniFi guest portal is a temporary pop up browser that guests are required to navigate before they get full access to the internet. Also known as a captive portal, it is typical of all wireless network hardware networks and is not unique to UniFi. If the guest portal is active on a network, then it will automatically appear, or pop up when a user joins that network. This temporary browser is also known as the captive network assistant and is well established in both iOS and Android operating systems

Why do we need captive portals?

UniFi guest portals exist so that they can elicit an action from the guest hoping to get access to the internet. There are several popular use cases for the cation required on the captive portal. One of the most common is a portal to take payment from users who want to get access to the internet. Other use cases include a simple checkbox to agree to terms and conditions or to view an advertisement. For the purposes of the this piece we will be focusing on UniFi guest portal email capture, as this is the most valuable use case where the guest internet is provided free of charge.

unifi guest portal email

How UniFi Guest Portal Works?

The guest portal is all managed from the guest control section of the UniFi controller (Hotspot section in Beta firmware). There is one key prerequisite that needs to be in place before the guest control settings can be applied and it is that at least one wireless network must have the guest policy applied (see image below). Once this is active then you can decide on what type of guest experience you would like to offer. If you want to be able to use UniFi guest portal email capture then you will need to select the “external portal service” from the list of authentication methods in the guest policy tab.

External Portal Server

If UniFi guest portal email capture for marketing is your objective then your only option is to use the external portal server option. At this point it is important to ask if you should build or buy your external portal serviceand the answer really depends on how much time you have and how valuable that time is. For a professional marketing portal there are many options (check out the MyPlace guest portal marketing service) and these options are multi layered and have integrations with the most popular marketing platforms, like Mailchimp for example. In the paragraphs that follow, we go a little deeper into the functionality of the UniFi guest portal and the importance of getting the fundamentals right

Network Requirements

This part is less to do with the actual software running the portal and data capture service and more to do with getting the environment right with UniFi. Ubiquiti have built a great system with UniFi however such is the pace of development and release cycles that many factors, including those listed below need to constantly monitored. A good WiFi marketing service like MyPlace Connect will do a lot of this monitoring for you so you don’t have to worry.

  1. The UniFi controller must be available via a hostname with an SSL cert so that the UniFi API works seamlessly. If you have a cloud key or a local server then you will need to put a port forward in place and point a hostname to your public IP with the 8443 port extension, example (http://MY.PUBLIC.IP:8443)
  2. All ports must be open, as listed here by UniFi between the controller and the client. Check local gateway and controller host to make sure there are no restrictions in place
  3. Make sure that there are no IP restrictions in place that might prevent inbound traffic from the service running the guest portal
  4. Check that the Pre-Authorization checklist in Guest Control contains all IP addresses required for the guest portal service. If not listed the captive portal will prevent access
  5. Before running controller upgrades, try if possible, to test that all captive portal functionality still works on a non-production controller first before deploying to a production network

Guest Portal Software Considerations

This is the part where the venues guests will interact with captive portal and where you can get your UniFi guest portal email capture and marketing started. There are a few key areas that need to be considered here.

Design and User Experience

It is fair to say that most users would prefer not to have to go through a captive portal to get internet, so if they are going to have to complete this step, it should be as pleasant and as painless as possible. User experience really counts here, and most good UniFi guest portal email capture services have invested in creating good user experiences

Email Verification

The first and most important part of WiFi marketing is capturing the guests email address and saving it to a database. Capturing an email is not enough as the email will need to be verified before it can be used for marketing. MOst reputable email marketing platforms will suspend your account if your bounce rate (percentage of failed email deliveries) is too high. Verification is a simple step where a verification link is sent to the user so they can click on the link to verify that the email address is real. 

Social Login Options

Offering a social login option, like Facebook or Google is not only a better user experience but it offers automatic account verification without the need to issue a verification email. There is also the opportunity to get more valuable data points for your WiFi marketing database

Data Protection

Although this varies in many parts of the world, the general trend is one of convergence. It goes without saying that you need to abide by the data protection legislation in your jurisdiction. At a high level this means communicating terms clearly while giving users options and offering marketing opt outs in every email communication. 

Integrations

UniFi guest portal email capture is a great way to build a database, but it may not have the best suite of tools to utilize that data in a meaningful way. By integrating with more marketing focused services like Mailchimp or reputation management software  you can really leverage the effective database building potential of the UniFi guest portal and some of the best marketing platforms on the internet

UniFi Guest Portal Email Capture

As can be seen from the list above, there is quite a bit more to consider when capturing guest email than just putting an email field into some basic html code. By planning ahead, you will save a lot of hassle when issues caused by improper implementation crop up in the future

Other Guest Portal Use Cases 

There are multiple use cases or reasons why venue owners who offer public WiFi would want to use a captive portal, as summarised below:

  1. Take payment for internet access – Many venues still charge for internet access and the guest portal is the gateway to the internet and therefore the best place to capture payment details
  2. Display Advertising – The UniFi guest portal provides an opportunity to show an advertisement or promotion to all WiFi users in a venue
  3. Accepts Terms Checkbox – It provides an easy way to ask guests to agree to terms and conditions of use or acceptable use policies

UniFi Guest Portal Email Capture

As outlined in the article above there is an excellent opportunity to use the UniFi guest portal for capturing guest email for marketing. UniFi guest portal email capture or collection is one of the main ways that you can add value to your UniFi network. Due to the many variables with setting up the portal for marketing it is recommended that you use a third party service dedicated to building guest portals for UniFi. Whichever option you choose, the long term benefits for businesses are clear.

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