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Wi-Fi is everywhere. And no category of Wi-Fi is growing faster than amenity Wi-Fi—that is, free, complimentary Wi-Fi. Increasing consumer demand for Wi-Fi at retail locations is spurring business and venue owners to offer Wi-Fi as an amenity rather than a pay-as-you-go commercial service. And venue owners are finding this is good for business. According to a recent Deloitte study, "The Dawn of Mobile Influence," people who use their smartphone in a retail location are 14% more likely to make a purchase there. And if they visit the store website or app while inside, the likelihood of purchases increases to 33%.
Take the U.S., for example: in the last year free Wi-Fi has come online at a growing number of venues. Restaurants, cafés, and bars have been adding free Wi-Fi for years; it's now rare to find a coffee shop in the U.S. without it. Small businesses everywhere are finding that free Wi-Fi is not only inexpensive to add, but also much appreciated (and sometimes even expected) by their customers.
Beyond the café/restaurant space, the trendsetters were Macy's, Home Depot, Nordstrom, and Staples. Now that list has grown to include outlets such as Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, Saks Fifth Ave, Pacific Sunwear, Kohl's, Winn-Dixie, Kroger, and Office Depot. Several large mall owners are also offering free Wi-Fi throughout their facilities, allowing customers to remain connected to high-bandwidth networks while they shop. For indoor malls, Wi-Fi is even more valuable, as cellular network coverage is often limited inside large concrete buildings.
And this retail trend is not limited to the U.S. The amenity Wi-Fi trend is growing wherever smartphones are popular, including cities like Barcelona, London, and Kuala Lumpur, to name a few. More and more cities—such as Calgary, São Paulo, and Amsterdam—are making plans for city-wide systems.
Amenity Wi-Fi isn't happening just at food, drink, and retail establishments. Hospitals and schools offering free Wi-Fi now—and even some hotels and airports are doing so. Those travel venues used to charge some of the highest prices for Wi-Fi access, but increasingly they are switching to free access. Now car dealers, tire centers, lawyers' offices, and even long tail businesses such as hair salons, fitness centers, and doctors' offices are adding free Wi-Fi—a welcome amenity in places where subscribers may find themselves spending time waiting.