Tesco Testing Free Wi-Fi

Discussion
Aug 01, 2011
Tom Ryan

Tesco is testing the offering of free Wi-Fi access in its stores, becoming the first British supermarket chain to do so.

The service is being tested in four of the chain’s 2,700 UK branches, but is expected to be rolled out across the country if popular, The Grocer said. The innovation will help shoppers compare prices and read reviews of products they are thinking of buying, while Tesco will be able to tailor special offers that customers will access on their smartphones as they shop.

“You can stand Canute-like and pretend nothing is happening … or you can say it’s happening, and I am going to help it happen,” Mike McNamara told the Financial Times. “My guess is it will go to all stores.”

Most Tesco stores already possess the infrastructure to enable Wi-Fi delivery for a quick rollout. However, Mr. McNamara did warn that Tesco is likely to take steps to prevent abuse of the service. “If you sit there streaming video forever, we may switch it off,” he explained.

The move, according to the Guardian, will also help Tesco encourage its in-store “sat nav” app, which guides shoppers to the items on their list via the shortest route. A trial of the app recently began at its Essex store.

Sam’s Club began offering free Wi-Fi in its U.S. stores last August to encourage TV sales and apparently is one of the few major chains to provide the service. It also reportedly extended WiFi to its UK locations. Wi-Fi is also widely available in Starbucks and McDonald’s across the U.K. With hotels and other fast-food chains increasingly providing the service, Colin Jeffrey, a director at Deloitte, told the Financial Times that it’s only a matter of time before retailers follow suit.

“It’s almost taken for granted in coffee shops and hotels now,” he said. “Retailers are going to have to move quickly to meet the basic expectations of customers.”

A few comments by readers in a Daily Mail article pointed to the benefits of checking prices and offers while shopping. But more griped about the potential traffic logjams in the aisles.

Wrote RobRob, Hereford, “Great! Even more nerds standing in the way glued to their iPhones whilst you are trying to get your cornflakes.”

Should U.S. supermarkets and major chains be offering free Wi-Fi? What are the pros and cons of providing such as service?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

19 Comments on "Tesco Testing Free Wi-Fi"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
9 years 9 months ago

It’s not just a matter of offering “free Wi-Fi,” but another facet of supporting how consumers interact more and more with purchasing decisions. Who would think it strange to have free Wi-Fi at a car dealership as you look up Kelly Blue Book as your salesman does the “I have to talk to my Sales Manager before signing off”? This is just another tool as well as an enhancement of the overall shopping experience. Think of the spouse sitting outside the department store watching a live stream of some event rather than the bored vacant look we have all seen. Wi-Fi and internet in general has changed our shopping experience on all levels … no reason not to expect it to expand

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

A grocery store is not a coffee shop and I don’t think that Wi-Fi in such stores is a “basic expectation of customers.” Tesco could only want to do this if they’ll always come out ahead on a price comparison. And the number of shoppers who would take the time to compare Frosties prices across stores (assuming there’s an easy website to do that) has got to be trivial. You go to Tesco for any variety of reasons (price, convenience, own label), not so you can check out Sainsbury’s prices. Here’s a great example of why internet providers want to be charging premiums on heavy data users.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I think this is a no-brainer for Tesco and for other retailers. “WiFi everywhere” is becoming a consumer expectation, so it’s important for marketers to figure out how to leverage this trend to their advantage. If Tesco and other stores can use the log-in function on shoppers’ smartphones to drive a “deal of the day” (or something more specific, if the shopper has already registered a preference), it can drive more sales in a very targeted way.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
9 years 9 months ago

This is the key to micro-location based services (know location within a foot). If you want to proactively change the in-store conversation (info, promo, service) when your customer is approaching/in-front of the product, this will be table stakes.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I am surprised that more retailers have not done this already! The first in to a service usually maintains a small advantage with consumers and these opportunities have been SOP in hotels and many restaurants for several years. This can be another way for retailers to connect with key customers in-store where purchase decisions are made. I believe this will happen quickly.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 9 months ago

Yes, as retailers look to create promotions that are dynamic while you walk the store or use QR codes to help drive traffic to promotions, a strong and reliable connection to the internet will be important.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Supermarket chains, as well as chain drug, mass and all other channels, should definitely be offering Wi-Fi for too many reasons to count out loud. And besides, the longer the consumer spends in your store, the more likely she will make more purchases.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

There is a considerable difference in the expectation of services for someone in a hotel or restaurant/coffee shop than in supermarkets. In a hotel, I expect to be able to access the internet so that I can work. Others may expect the same thing for entertainment. Quick serve restaurants and coffee shops did it as a point of differentiation.

The ability to locate items may make a lot of sense, but I agree with those who have written; I don’t expect to see people doing price comparisons between supermarket chains as they shop. Does it work for Sam’s — sure the price points people are comparing are far more significant and Sam’s fully expects to have the lowest price.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 9 months ago

Absolutely — major US retailers should offer free WiFi. Whatever sales they may lose to comparative price checks will be more than offset through the potential for real-time targeted offers, upsells, etc. And “nerds glued to their iPhones” have become a fact of modern life; people are used to it.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I have been shocked at the lack of Wi-Fi in stores for either associates OR customers. RSR’s benchmarks have consistently shown less than 40% of retailers have Wi-Fi available outside the back room (for receiving tasks). I expected Wi-Fi to follow broadband soon after that technology achieved full penetration (around 2004). It just hasn’t happened.

I think it has to — not just for customers, but for associates. Otherwise, as my partner Steve Rowen is fond of saying, “Store managers and associates will continuing carrying knives to a gun fight.” Consumers will use their 3 and 4G phones to do their price comparisons and product research, and store associates will stand blankly by.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Yes, and it will happen sooner than we expect. We are not that far off from retailers, grocers and even restaurants offering free Wi-Fi. Another market for free Wi-Fi is the cruise and time share market. Users of these services are going to be more demanding and will require the availability.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Why not do it? There is only one reason — to keep customers from comparing prices and products. If that is the reason, shame on the retailer. If that is the retailer’s rationale, it is consistent with the small thinking found throughout today’s retail industry.

Tomorrow, a person’s expectation of Wi-Fi availability will be no different than today’s expectation of an available mobile phone signal. I found Wi-Fi is much wider spread in Europe than in the U.S. I don’t understand why that should be.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I am going to check into the cost of this and see if it is reasonable, because a lot of guys can surf the net on their phones, while the women buy more stuff.

I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for the idea.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I love Tony Orlando’s comment. Combined with the quote from the Daily Mail reader, I think the future is about more than checking prices and/or promos while you shop. As if you’re going to drop what you’re buying and head off to some other supermarket in case one or two items may cost less there. Or stand around figuring out which ones to buy where. Do Americans understand the expression, Swings and Roundabouts? Gimme a break, guys.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Supermarkets should only offer free Wi-Fi if they want to serve modern shoppers equipped with smartphones and the like.

Mike Spindler
Guest
Mike Spindler
9 years 9 months ago

Clearly, something to be expected, particularly if the retailer is the price leader. Of course getting any meaningful data about local (including online) alternatives is still a challenge.

One of the biggest hurdles is the wide gap between what manufacturers think their current product packaging looks like (and is reflected in the product images they supply to the applications) and what is actually on the shelf.

New major study on this coming up the pike.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 9 months ago

I love topics that include the word, “whilst,” don’t you? Whenst reading this report, I was stunned by its dated nature. My local Safeway has supplied Wi-Fi for years and I’ve yet to see: 1.) Marathon streaming nerds and, 2.) Shoppers blocking cornflakes access whilst using smartphones in the aisles to compare prices.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
9 years 9 months ago

This is why Tesco continues to be the leading innovator in supermarket marketing throughout the world. Just this week, I was asked to pocket my smartphone as I was scanning a UPC barcode with my camera while standing in a major supermarket chain in the U.S. So many retailers simply don’t get it. So many retailers will simply be left behind.

Tesco is a retailer that stands behind their brand promise to offer the best value for their consumers, and they are willing to allow their consumers the opportunity to test this promise while in-store.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 9 months ago

With the rapid changes driven by digital technologies gripping consumers around the world, it seems a natural step forward.

Because of the cost involved some retailers could look to share the costs of this new infrastructure and therefore risk handing over valuable data on their shoppers. Alternatively it is paid for by new couponing channels that in many cases will just result in bombarding shoppers with more junk via a different channel. Retailers should consider their approach carefully.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

When will free Wi-Fi be widely available in U.S. supermarkets?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...