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Networking is Chic

If you go into “town” with any frequency you’ve probably noticed that many businesses, especially retailers and restaurants, are advertising that they offer free or low-cost WiFi to their clientele. The marketing scheme behind this may seem transparent…if you can offer the customer a free service and they’ll spend more time in your store which will translate to more merchandise purchased. I believe that the initiative behind this customer “perk” is to accomplish more than to just generate a few more sales. I will use Ukrop’s grocery and McDonald’s to examine the “We have WiFi” phenomenon.

For a couple of years Ukrop’s grocery has offered WiFi in their cafe area. Ukrop’s company mission is ultimately customer and community service. Offering free Wifi in their cafe was just one more way to offer the ultimate customer experience. WiFi was a very low cost addition to all of their other services such as dry cleaning, bag boys that carry your groceries for you, a fully stocked florist, catering, banking, and a restaurant. I think the point of all of their services, including the WiFi is to build a very flexible, accommodating reputation for families and businesses. Although I’m not sure of the actual dollar value that offering WiFi has added to their bottom line, I do know that Ukrop’s customers now go there not only to grocery shop, but to conduct business meetings, on-line business and study groups because of the WiFi capabilities. In essence, adding WiFi has created more business for them in their off peak times, because people that would have gone somewhere such as a library or Internet cafe to do business can go to their neighborhood Ukrop’s.

McDonald’s initiative for offering WiFi is a different scenario. This company is known for consistency and fast food, not necessarily ultimate customer service. The fact is that McDonald’s is trying to change its brand to to be more chic and customer service related. They have modernized a lot of their older restaurants, they are incorporating coffee bars within the restaurant, and they are offering WiFi. They are using WiFi as a tool to reach out to a new clientele and to also let their old clientele know that they are evolving into a more customer friendly environment.


Although their specific initiatives may be different, outfits that offer free or low-cost WiFi to their customers are trying to potray that they cater to the tech savvy, but mostly that they are in tune with their customer’s needs. WiFi availiablity helps businesses build stronger loyalty from their customers, both family and business.

JiWire.Com is a website that has a fairly current directory of all WiFi hotspot across the globe. Once you find your area you can even see which locations are free and how other customers rate the connections and service speed. http://www.jiwire.com/


3 Comments so far
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I am currently here in Virginia Beach at a conference. The inn that I am staying at has free internet in each room. I remember a time that there was no access in each room. This progressed to you had access in each room but there was an additional fee. Now it is pretty much standard that free access is provided. In my room I was initially given, I could not access the internet due to some problem. So how did they fix it? They put me up in another room. I told them that it was very important that I have access to do my schoolwork while I was away from home. I don’t think they would have done that a few years ago.
This shows that it has become an important part of customer service to have the access to the internet available. Who knows what the future holds?

Comment by todsouth

I really like your post. I did not know Ukrop’s offered this fine service. I do not shop there too often because they take too much of my money. I did know that Mcdonalds offered the service. The pictures that you diplayed were of some of the nicer Mickey D’s. They also have it in your traditional McDonalds. I could never imagine sitting in the fast food restaraunt, eating a Big Mac and surfing the web. I would be afraid of dripping the special sauce all over the computer.
One thing we have to be careful of is our wireless security. It is very easy to surf the web with an unsecured wireless connection. I have heard of some folk who rather than pay for a service, they just bounce off their neighbor’s. This is not fair. Do you think that there will ever be laws regulating this? There are laws that regulate everything else.
Setting up a home network is fun and very easy to do. I reccomend anyone giving it a shot.

Comment by scoutmstr25

Internet access is a big movement. I didn’t realized how bug until I went out to lunch with a friend at work. We went to a particular sandwich shop because it had greater speed then some others. When we arrived there were already a gaggle of other “surfers” plugged in and focused on whatever. IT was really, really odd because nobody was talking, they were all just concentrating on their screens. Every little while you could hear mouse clicks. It was really different.

Also, there have been a number of legal cases involving wireless access. I remember one out of Florida that hit the papers a while ago where a guy was busted because he drove up to a coffee shop and used their WAP all day long from his car. I believe it was considered theft. On a related note, there have also been a number of people sent notices by their ISP because someone else connects into an insecure wireless router and starts surfing nefarious sites.

Comment by Robert

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