Connecting To New Sales
Cole is not alone in exploring the retail possibilities of Internet access. A two-year-old Sunnyvale, Calif., company says it can make in-store WiFi connectivity a win-win for retailers and customers. AnchorFree is offering an advertising-supported WiFi service to retailers who have substantial foot-traffic in their stores. “There’s a whole new thread of value here to these retailers,” said AnchorFree VP Mark Smith. “More and more shoppers have wireless devices on them when they walk into a store. In-store WiFi will be an emerging platform for retailers to have a captive, persistent relationship with consumers on these devices.”
Advertising at the point of consumption has been shown to be an effective way to nudge shoppers into a buy decision, Smith said. But as consumers become increasingly savvy about their electronics purchases, he said, they’re more likely to do Internet-based research on mobile devices while they’re shopping. A banner ad suggesting a particular service or add-on can influence customers “while they are absolutely in the buying mode,” Smith said.
Numerous studies have shown that Internet users don’t mind a banner ad or two as long as it doesn’t take up too much of their screen real estate, especially if it means they are getting a free connection, Smith said. Though the number of commercial hotspots has increased (this, despite the failure of many city-wide WiFi projects) over the past couple years, many stores, restaurants and hotels charge consumers for the privilege, often at $10/day. Free WiFi has helped establish the reputation of establishments like the bakery-café chain Panera Bread as an alternative to Starbucks, which has traditionally charged about $6/hour.