GoGoGuest helps coffee shops manage their Wi-Fi, customer-by-customer

Be honest: Have you ever spent an entire day working at a coffee shop, despite only buying a single cup of coffee?

I’ve definitely been guilty of this, and I’ve also been to coffee shops that try to fight back by removing outlets, turning off their Wi-Fi or outlawing laptops on certain tables. A startup called GoGoGuest is taking a different approach that could help coffee shops combat this kind of freeloading — and deliver a better experience for paying customers.

GoGoGuest installs printers in coffee shops, so that when you make a purchase, you get a receipt with a unique code. Depending on how the coffee shop has chosen to implement the technology, this code might be the only way you can get onto the shop’s Wi-Fi, or it might be your ticket to a special high-speed, “premium” network. Then, after an hour or two, the coffee shop can ask you to make another purchase if you want to stay online.

I’ve tried this out myself at GoGoGuest’s first location, the Chai Bar in San Francisco, where I ordered a cup of chai, got my code and was surfing high-speed internet a few seconds later. The company says it’s already seeing a 30 percent conversion rate from customers who are spending two to six hours online.

Co-founder Christopher O’Connor acknowledged that all of this is already possible with existing Wi-Fi technology — but it’s complicated enough to do that most coffee shops haven’t tried it. (Put another way: I’ve been to many shops where there’s a single password for the Wi-Fi, and only a handful where I got an individual code.) So GoGoGuest makes it easier by handling the installation, then gives store owners and managers a dashboard where they can manage the system.

In addition, O’Connor said GoGoGuest provides store owners with a “boatload of analytics” about their customer activity. That means they can test the effectiveness of different marketing strategies and even offer promotions on an individual level: “If you see that someone is your best customer, you should maybe start treating them differently than the person who’s on YouTube all the time and isn’t buying anything.”

GoGoGuest also offers an iPhone app for consumers, allowing them to browse a curated list of nearby coffee shops. As the system gets installed in more locations, you can imagine those stores being highlighted in the app, which could also be used to deliver targeted offers and promotions.

O’Connor said he sees GoGoGuest as a way for “mobile, social workers” to find places where they can work with the guarantee of a good internet connection, while his co-founder Jessica Valenzuela added that it’s a way for independent coffee shops to promote themselves and “be better positioned against the bigger coffee shops.”