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CIO confirms offer of wireless internet access throughout its stores to boost customer engagement levels

Tesco yesterday confirmed it had installed wireless internet access in four of its stores to evaluate the roll out of Wi-Fi across its UK estate. 

In an interview with the Financial Times, Tesco’s chief information officer Mike McNamara confirmed the four-store pilot and said much of the required infrastructure investment had already been made because the retailer already uses Wi-Fi to run its internal store operations.

“My guess is it will go to all stores,” McNamara reportedly told the newspaper, echoing the comments of Andy Higginson, chief executive of retailing services and group strategy director for Tesco, at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference at the beginning of this year.

The plans would allow shoppers with Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices to compare prices and read product reviews as they shop, as well as receive Tesco Clubcard vouchers electronically.

It would also make Tesco the first major UK retailer to offer free Wi-Fi, following the likes of coffee shop and fast food chains, Costa Coffee, Starbucks and McDonalds.

Part of mobile revolution

Paul DeBeasi, analyst at Gartner, also told the Financial Times that retailers could be the next wave of businesses to offer free internet surfing.

Several US store groups, including Walmart’s Sam’s Club brand, already offer customer wireless access.

James Scott, regional managing director at e-commerce specialist, ChannelAdvisor, welcomed the news from Tesco and encouraged other retailers to follow its lead.

“We are encouraged by this announcement from Tesco. We still hear stories of some retailers deliberating blocking instore internet access or covering up barcodes on products to prevent shoppers from checking online prices using their mobile phones. This is clearly short-sighted and ultimately will drive customers elsewhere,” Scott stated.

“Retailers should be focusing their efforts on how to deliver value and convenience to shoppers – whether shopping in their stores, online from home, or indeed online from within their stores. The first step is making it easy for shoppers to connect online while instore and by rolling out free Wi-Fi, Tesco is clearly showing the initiative and putting their customers first.”

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