Is it time for stores to ditch the free Wi-Fi?
With inexpensive unlimited plans now regularly promoted by carriers and consumers less worried about overage charges, free Wi-Fi spots aren’t as popular as they used to be.
“Customers are rational,” Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson told Bloomberg. “When pricing incentives favor Wi-Fi, customers use more Wi-Fi. When pricing incentives shift, so does behavior.”
With the right data plan, a mobile phone can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for a laptop, as well. The signal from a mobile device is often stronger than the one found by tapping into a coffee, airport or hotel Wi-Fi source. Open Wi-Fi spots are also more easily tapped by hackers.
A ReportLinker survey even found that many Americans, including the majority of younger ones, are using their mobile phone to access the Internet at home. ReportLinker said the mobile phone appears “poised to eradicate the wireless router.”
For retailers, cost savings could come by not having to upgrade Wi-Fi or even offer it as part of the in-store shopping experience. Many stores and shopping centers still don’t offer free Wi-Fi to customers, or at least widely promote it.
For those that do, one loss would be the e-mail that generally comes when a shopper signs up to receive free Wi-Fi. Lesser known is whether the other benefits of retailers having Wi-Fi — including being able to deliver personalized messages, collecting any data on in-store behavior and linking in-store to online shopping — can be captured through their apps, beacons or some other method.
Still, the wireless price wars may lessen and free Wi-Fi spots may always hold some value.
According to a survey from HRC Retail Advisory, more than 90 percent of Gen Z consumers say that a strong Wi-Fi signal is important to them and their overall shopping experience. In a statement, Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, said that while Gen Z “was born with a smartphone in hand, it doesn’t keep them from shopping – and even preferring to shop – in brick and mortar stores, as long as they have access to their ever-important social network.”
- A World Without Wi-Fi Looks Possible as Unlimited Plans Rise – Bloomberg
- Wired, Wireless or Both? Americans Rethink Their Internet Connections – ReportLinker
- Survey Reveals Generation Z is Driven by Digital Touchpoints to Identify Products, but Prefers In-store Experience – HRC Retail Advisory
- Crafty Retailer Jo-Ann Fabric Aims to Retarget Its In-Store Wi-Fi User – Advertising Age
- StepsAway launches in-store, WiFi-based marketing for retailers – Marketing Land
- Crafty Retailer Jo-Ann Fabric Aims to Retarget Its In-Store Wi-Fi Users – Advertising Age
- How to use your phone to connect your laptop to the internet when you have spotty Wi-Fi – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would the loss of free Wi-Fi as a shopper incentive impact retailers? Should retailers continue to invest in promoting and upgrading stores as Wi-Fi spots?