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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/