Tuesday, 31 March 2009

WiFi vs cellular customer access to Tesco service applications

I was intrigued by a response to my blog post about an idea to have customers with smart phones roam onto a Tesco WiFi network in our stores in order to try out various functions such as search for a product and be guided to it.

Andrew Grill of Marcom Professional wrote (see his original blog post here):

On the microsoft video post Adam Cohen-Rose also pointed me to a Tesco blog from Nick Lansley about using dual mode GSM/WiFi phones in store to get latest offers via WiFi.
The thing I think Nick misses in his post is that configuring WiFi access points in any handset is not for the faint hearted. I cringed slightly when Nick said in the post
"OK so the devil is in the detail. But it’s not a big devil. Let’s think of the customer experience here: "….and then he listed FIVE steps consumers had to take to get the offers. NO! Why not let consumers access these “special offers” via their standard mobile internet connection BEFORE they get to the store - and enjoy the full utility of the mobile in their journey and experience on the way to the Tesco store. It’s got to be something my mum could do or your standard Tesco shopper won’t even bother.

So you don't have to go and re-read my original post, the five suggested steps are:

  1. They arrive at the front of the store
  2. They see a sign that says:
    Use our wifi - start your browser and select 'Tesco' from your Wifi list'.
  3. They duly open their browser which causes the phone to list the available access points and they choose 'Tesco'.
  4. Their web browser tries to get to whatever home page the customer has set up - but is of course directed to a 'landing page' much the same way that you see a landing page when accessing the internet through a hotel wifi service, and you have to provide your credentials and possible payment details to proceed.
  5. The landing page offers services such as 'find a product' and, once marketing get this idea, a whole host of marketing messages.

The first thing I should point out is that the only actually 'teccie' thing that the customer has to do is select the 'Tesco' WiFi signal. Arriving at a store (step 1), reading a sign (step 2), and looking at a web landing page (step 5) are not exactly part of any technical problem! I would even argue that starting the web browser on the phone (step 4) is only slightly technical insofar as you have to select it from the applications on your phone.

As for step 3, if it's a phone such as an iPhone it automatically suggests connecting to unencrypted access points anyway, allowing for a simple Connect? Yes or No question to be answered. I note from a couple of colleagues that Blackberrys and a Nokia E61 do the same thing. It's actually so simple that I think Andrew's mum could do it!

Andrew does point to a question that I didn't answer, which is why is it that I didn't suggest using the cellular network and make the applications available on an internet website rather than an internal service requiring WiFi access?

There are two good reasons:
  1. Tesco have used building materials that have accidently turned many of our large stores into 'Faraday cages' which block radio signals. The latest style of our modern spacious Tesco Extra stores with sweeping metallic roofs and walls look inspirational - but unless the Tesco store is next to a cellular tower, the weaker the phone signal becomes as you walk deeper inside away from the entrance door and windows. I find it often peters out half way to the back wall. On the other hand, the WiFi signal is 'locked' inside the store by the same Faraday cage process, giving great coverage thanks to reflections from the structure.
  2. At this time, cellular internet access can be expensive with low downloads limits (excepting some contracts such O2/iPhone which is 'unlimited'). Although we can author lightweight web pages (bytes wise), we have to ensure that the customer thinks we are good value enough to use some of their bandwidth using our service. I accept that this sounds a little pedantic on my part but we build our brand on trust and I am quite sure that customers will prefer a free service using Wifi to one which costs them part of their monthly bandwidth.

So to summarise - I have recommended Wifi to offer customers a mobile web service in-store in a free and reliable way.

So don't cringe, Andrew: All I have to do is show your mum (and all our other customers) that is it easy, useful, and no hassle. (Actually, between you and me, we will likely offer both cellular and Wifi web-based services).

1 comment:

  1. popped some thoughts up here: http://informationsystemsarchitecture.craigbeattie.com/2009/03/just-pondering-this-post-on-mobile.html


As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: