Rakuten welcomes Skype Wi-fi initiative as good for retail

Rating: Bricks & mortar can benefit from free online access

In partnership with Wi-fi installation specialist, Wicoms, VoIP service provider, Skype, is to launch Free Skype WiFi across the UK and Ireland. The service is aimed at owners of shops, restaurants and cafes on the High Street. The aim is to drive consumers into bricks and mortar stores with a view to making purchases. Such a scheme is inline with recent research which found that shoppers searched online whilst in-store but still made their purchases in situ. The move has been welcomed by Rakuten LinkShare UK md, Mark Haviland. “The news that Skype is launching free Wi-fi is a call to action for retailers to realise that online has an integral role to play on the high street – the channels should be working together, not competing against one another for sales,” Haviland claimed. Of course, the new service is free to consumers but businesses have to fund it.

Businesses will have to pay £9.99 + VAT per month to offer the service. In addition, the retail will have to pay for a router costing £49 +VAT.

However, throughout October 2012, Wicoms is offering businesses the ability to deliver the Wi-fi service free of charge for the month.

Those businesses that decide against providing the service can keep the router for free. So why would any sensible retailer decide to continue offering the service?

The answer lies within this sentence … “Included in each package is a detailed analytical dashboard to help merchants make the best use of the data from the Wi-fi service.”

In other words, that kind of data alone is going to be worth a tenner a month.

From Skype’s point of view the alliance also makes sense because in order to take advantage users sign in through the Skype Wi-fi app and then log on to the internet for free.

Haviland points out, “Today’s shopper is always on the go and as a result smartphones have become personal shopping lifelines. Consumers look to their mobiles for the latest offers, newest products and use location-based services to find their nearest high street store. ”

Now here’s the plug for Rakuten … “For retailers looking to capitalise on this multi-channel environment, an affiliate campaign links online with bricks-and-mortar stores easily and innovatively,” Haviland says.

” Working with publishers such as style blogs, voucher sites and augmented reality apps, retailers can use a mobile campaign to direct shoppers to their stores. Going digital is the future of shopping and mobile is the perfect way to merge these marketing channels to drive sales,” he adds.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft last year and it currently offers wi-fi access at around a million locations in the UK – but it’s paid for. This initiative should help Skype extend its footprint considerably.

GoMobile News can also add the results of its research. We found that many pub chains – such as Greene King and Wetherspoons – offer free Wi-fi access to their clientelle via The Cloud and that the login process is the same for all such premises. Guess where we drink then?

Read the entire Wicoms/Skype release here.

About Tony Dennis

Tony is currently Editor of GoMobile News. He's a veteran telecoms journalist who has previously worked for major printed and online titles. Follow him on Twitter @GoMoTweet.
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