Mobile phone retailer Phones 4u has this week launched free Wi-Fi services across its network of stores, allowing its customers to access the internet in all of its outlets.
A deal with free public access Wi-Fi provider The Cloud aims to improve customer interaction with technology, as shoppers will be able to use the network to demo live web surfing when selling internet-enabled smartphones.
Vince Russell, managing director of The Cloud, explained the importance of the development.
“Retailers increasingly understand that consumers expect quick and reliable internet access to be available wherever they go, which is exactly what Wi-Fi provides,” he commented.
Offering Wi-Fi in-store is an increasingly popular move by retailers, as department store group John Lewis last month announced its intention to rollout the service in its stores across the UK by Christmas following research which revealed that 60 per cent of its customers research products online prior to purchase.
However, Andy Budd, Managing Director of web consultancy Clearleft, believes that such connectivity is nothing new.
“If this had been done five or six years ago that would’ve been novel, though now Wi-Fi is ubiquitous,” he told Retail Gazette.
“Apple is famous for offering Wi-Fi three or four years ago, which created a buzz around the products and shop, and one thing it has done brilliantly is allow you to use real phones.
“Phones 4u doing this is great as selling a phone package service is less important than actually getting a sense of whether the phone is any good.”
Simon Robinson, Senior Director of Marketing & Alliances for EMEA at Responsys, countered the idea that Phones 4u was merely keeping up with the Joneses however and applauded the retailer’s scheme.
“As online retail soars, Phones 4u is going further than most retailers to address the changes in consumer habits,” Robinson explained.
“It is an innovative way of gaining permission to contact customers across online channels and establish their preferences.
“Phones 4u will be able to gather customer’s contact details when users sign up to use wi-fi on their personal phones in-store, and by monitoring users interaction, the brand will gain invaluable information about their customers shopping habits and purchasing decisions.”
Alistair Firth, Director of Customer Development at Phones 4u, admitted that offering Wi-Fi was essential for the retailer.
“We’re a phone retailer aimed at a youthful, tech-savvy audience, whose mobile phones are one of the most important things they own.
“As smartphones are such a big part of people’s everyday lives, customers expect to be able to see these devices in action, streaming video and music off the web, when deciding which mobile phone to buy next.
“This is why good quality Wi-Fi is an essential asset for us and an important one in ensuring our customers are getting the best experience possible when visiting our stores.”