Ex-Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has said that wifi helps to bridge the gap between bricks and mortar stores and the online shopping experience.

In January, Sir Terry led a £3.3 million funding round in a Greater Manchester startup called Purple WiFi, which provides a free wifi service to the public, which they can access through their existing social media accounts or filling in a short form. Venues, such as shops and restaurants, that host the wifi, in return get analytic insights into the profiles and movements of their customers, as well as a sophisticated marketing platform. Purple WiFi is currently deployed at venues like the Hippodrome, Alexandra Palace and Camden Market in London. Shoes retailer Schuh has also recently implemented the technology in its stores across the UK.

Schuh logo
Shoes retailer Schuh is the latest company to install Purple WiFi, which is backed by Sir Terry Leahy, in its stores. Image credit: Schuh

“[Wifi can be used] to bring the benefits of the online experience into the store. The more physical stores can learn from online [and bring] into the stores, the better they’ll do. Wifi plays an absolutely key role in making that possible,” Sir Terry said at a Purple WiFi-hosted event in London last week.

The former CEO of Tesco described wifi as “a big piece of the jigsaw for me”. He believes it gives retailers important geolocation data that can be used for more accurate and effective marketing to shoppers in store.

“What we don’t know is, in terms of geolocation, where people are in real time,” said Sir Terry. However, with technology like Purple WiFi’s, retailers can track shoppers’ movements when they log into the wifi network hosted by a store. Retailers can then use this data to provide customers with a better and more relevant customer experience.

The best way to acquire customers is by providing them with a good experience that encourages them to choose to come back based on that experience, said Sir Terry.

“If people choose you, rather than you buy them, they’re much more profitable,” he said. “One of the tragedies of modern marketing is that most marketing dollars are spent chasing new customers. Too little money is actually going to the person who’s actually loyal.”

“Marketing is about how to make the experience better for customers. [I’m investing in Purple WiFi because its CEO] Gavin [Wheeldon] recognised that wifi at the moment wasn’t giving anything to the customer.”