April 30, 2012
City Wi-Fi: an investment that will no doubt bring great future rewards as mobile shopping becomes more mainstream.
As covered in MORE Vision 5, our bi-monthly retail trend report, airports and train stations are becoming fully functioning retail destinations, attracting tourists and locals to these locations as consumers. As retail becomes more technologically advanced with digital initiatives and online stores, cities need to adapt as well, by integrating an effective strategic response to the growing online demands of city commerce. That’s why major cities like New York, London, and South Korea are already heavily invested in the installation of wi-fi throughout their subway and transport systems; an investment that will no doubt bring great future rewards as mobile shopping becomes more mainstream.
According to Transit Wireless, the company founded to build a shared wireless infrastructure for Metropolitan Transport Authority’s NY Transit, New Yorkers will soon have cellphone service and free wi-fi in over 30 more subway platforms by the end of the year. The project started last year and is set to fit all 277 subway stations with wi-fi over the next 4 years. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “Transit Wireless and MTA will share proceeds of the company’s contracts with wireless carriers, MTA have said, with a minimum annual payment to the transit system of $3.3 million once the cellphone network is complete.” What does this mean for retail in transport hubs? Now that passengers can be plugged into the net during their long commute to and from work, online shopping channels can only benefit.
Perhaps it is no surprise, as South Korea is known to have far superior broadband connections than the rest of the world, but Seoul is also a major city for wi-fi connection underground. They have gone a step further by introducing a Tesco Homeplus virtual supermarket in a South Korean subway station, encouraging shoppers to use their smartphones. A large billboard was installed in the station with life sized photos containing a QR code. Shoppers scan the products they want while they wait for their train, and the order is delivered to the user’s home within one day.
In preparation for the Olympic games, London is set to launch Europe’s largest free wi-fi zone, outfitting up to 120 stations on the network before summer of 2012. The mobile operator O2 said the deal, which will have no cost to the taxpayer, will enable visitors to “make the most of what London has to offer”. According the BBC, Councillor Philippa Roe, recently elected Leader of Westminster City Council, said: “Westminster welcomes over a million tourists a day, is home to 250,000 residents, employs over half a million people and sees 4,000 business starts-ups each year. Visitors to London will easily be able to share their pictures and updates of the Olympic events across social networking sites.”
What she didn’t mention is that thanks to wi-fi, visitors and locals alike will be more connected than ever to more than 40,000 retail shops throughout the city.