ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The WiFi revolution

Echoing my co-conspirator's comments below, I also frequent Panera quite a bit. There is usually one nearby at most of the places I frequent, its food service is consistent, its staff varies from extremely friendly, to more than adequate, its food is tasty, and its wireless service is very functional. Oh, and free.

Free is so much more than cheap though too. There's no accounts to worry about, no usernames or passwords to remember, etc. No having to account for the bill, or worrying if the monthly charge is worth it or not.

And I can't see how its not a money-maker for Panera as well. Its costs per month for a hotspot can't be much, and if it drives traffic to their store to sell an extra 10 latte's a week, I would think it would pay for itself. And it keeps me out of the starbucks across the street.

One aspect of the Panera service is that when you first connect it presents you with a terms of service agreement for you to agree to, before letting you onto the Internet at large. During that time Panera makes an offer to you to sign up for their email newsletter for "follow-up" marketing. It seems to me that any of the "fee" wifi providers could do something similar. I'd be happy to sit through an 60 second ad for an hour or two's worth of internet service.

I also wonder the same thing about the airport WiFi services. The last 3 large airports (non-GA) that I've flown through have had internet service, but they all charge $3-7 per hour or a flat $10 per day for service. If I had a 3-4 hour layover I suppose that wouldn't be so bad, but for the 20 minutes before the gate agent starts boarding the flight it has little value. But wouldn't marketers like to be able to show me an ad, or get marketing info from me in exchange for those 20 minutes? Wouldn't an airport authority like a survey of all travelers traveling through their airport? I'll gladly part with some of that information, in exchange for the connection to the world.

The killer WiFi location for me however would be the local bar. There is an Irish pub within walking distance of my house. When I've been there for a late lunch (2-5) during afternoons, etc, the place is dead. If they sell 3 beers during that timeframe they are ahead. Why not put a wifi hotspot in, and allow me to browse the internet while drinking from my pint? Sell even 1 beer to me more than you used to, and you've paid for the bandwidth I've consumed. During peak periods, where you may not want people "chilling out", simply turn the service off (with sufficient warning).

Laptops are a commodity, WiFi is integrated and will only become more so. Hooks in the major OS's make signing up for any "open" hotspot trivial. With a free service, you don't have to provide technical support (beyond maybe a brochure), you increase the network effect of your brand, and you drive customers during your "off" times when your paying for the lights and electricity and employee's anyway.

I may just need to go down and talk to my local barkeep...... Maybe I can work out a "beer" for service arrangement.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the entire day's worth of blogging was done from a Panera in Hillary!'s home town. No, her real hometown. My in-laws live just a few miles, and this is a great place to catch up on work, etc., while they get visiting time with my Emma-Doll.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Comments (1)
St Wendeler said...

Ok, but if you start Blogging from the bar... we've got probs. Slurred text is tough to read.

BTW, great points on the Panera service... forgot to mention that it's super-easy to use. And I agree with your marketing pitch for airports, etc. O