Starbucks Finally Offers Free Wi-Fi: Big Whoop
June 16, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Starbucks, the sagging upscale coffee chain, announced on Monday that beginning July 1, the company will be offering free unlimited Wi-Fi access. I for one, would like to extend a hand and welcome Starbucks to the 21st century. Perhaps the announcement made by Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz would have created waves five-years ago, but as free Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere now, even McDonald’s, Schultz’s announcement is a big yawn.
In addition to free unlimited Wi-Fi, Starbucks is promoting a proprietary network, called Starbucks Digital Network, which will offer free downloads, access to paid websites, such as the Wall Street Journal, content from such websites, as Yahoo, Patch and Zagat and local news.
Schulz hailed the new in-store network, as the next bext thing since–erm–well, AOL. In fact, Starbucks hired AOL’s Patch.com to create the store network.
Therein lies the problem; a specialized and targeted content network is nothing new, but Starbucks is banking on it to lure new customers to its coffee shops, driven away by the recession and specialty coffee overload:
‘“Free Wi-Fi is in my mind just the price of admission — we want to create … new sources of content that you can only get at Starbucks,” chairman and president and CEO Howard Schulz told the Wired Business Conference. “This is a thing that doesn’t exist in any other consumer marketplace in America.”’
“Starbucks hopes to make money from these initiatives indirectly, by “enhanc[ing] the experience” and making the content “so compelling that it drives incremental traffic,” said Schulz as he announced the new initiative at Wired’s Disruptive by Design conference on Monday.”
Starbucks will require customers to use a unique ID to access the Wi-Fi service and the Starbucks Digital Network, providing the company with opportunities to display targeted content and advertising tailored for each customer.
Will the free Wi-Fi and Starbuck’s AOL retread network compel consumers to return in droves to their local Starbucks for the privilege of forking over $6.00 for a designer Latte? Probably not. But good try Starbucks.