One of the big stories in the UK retail sector this week is that customers at British Land’s shopping centres will be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi later this year. As many of you know, for me, this is really great news!
British Land’s full shopping centre portfolio will benefit from the deal with BT Wi-Fi. Additionally to providing free Wi-Fi to its shopping centre customers, British Land has come to an arrangement to work with BT to try and deliver a strong Wi-Fi offering at a number of its open air shopping parks.
The move follows news from earlier in the year that intu, the rebranded Capital Shopping Centres, is installing Wi-Fi across its shopping centres as part of a wide-ranging digital improvement. The Trafford Centre is the first in the portfolio to benefit from a new fibre optic network and the provision of high quality free Wi-Fi throughout the mall.
It seems that Wi-Fi in UK shopping centres is slowly becoming the norm. It wasn’t too long ago that I visited Westfield Stratford City after work to pick up some ‘summer’ items for a family trip to Southern Africa. My flatmates and I did a bit of shopping, then went for a Nando’s; while waiting in the queue I was able to log on to the Westfield Wi-Fi and find out whether retailers had launched their ‘summer’ lines or not, and see what was in the market before I went in to try on my favoured items.
Intu’s research signals that almost half of UK internet users will, like me, make use of the internet at some point during the shopping process and that the conventional borders of online and offline shopping experiences are becoming more distorted. As I have discussed in this blog before, the introduction of new technology by both retailers and landlords is crucial to improving the customer experience, and increasing the connectivity between the landlords, retailers and consumers. British Land, Westfield and Intu are at the forefront of this evolution, as they seek to provide customers with a harmonious, multi-channel experience in their centres.