O2 finds more than half of adults connect to high street Wi-Fi


‘Wi-Fi Britain’ report shows the changing attitudes to internet connectivity on the high street, as operator connects its six millionth customer to the service

A study by O2 has found that more UK adults are seeking out free public Wi-Fi as part of their overall shopping experience.

This is according to the operator’s ‘Wi-Fi Britain’ report, which questioned 2,000 adults in February with OnePoll, investigating their attitudes towards Wi-Fi access in high street retail stores.

It revealed that fifty eight per cent connect online when out shopping, with more than one in five saying they use it to check prices online to ensure they are getting the best deal.

A quarter are more reliant on high street Wi-Fi than they were two years ago, with the same number anticipating using it more in the future.

One in seven (14 per cent) people said Wi-Fi access is crucial for them to consider entering a coffee shop while one in ten have changed venue because of a lack of internet access.

Just over a third (37 per cent) regard retail businesses that offer free Wi-Fi as being more “in-touch” with their customers than their competitors. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) see it as beneficial marketing while 16 per cent believe it positions the high street brands as innovative and forward-thinking.

A fifth say they feel frustrated towards a business if it doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi, while the same number thought having to sign-in with a username and password to get online was acceptable. O2 Wi-Fi auto-connects all registered users.

Looking ahead, shoppers said they would like to be able to use their mobile devices to check prices (46 per cent), check stock availability (39 per cent) and pay for items to avoid queueing (38 per cent). One in seven (15 per cent) would like to be able to use their mobiles in-store to bring products to life using technology such as augmented reality.

The publication of the report comes as the operator hit its six millionth customer sign-up since its launch in 2011, with over five million of those signed up in the last 12 months.

Since launch, O2 Wi-Fi has signed partnerships with a number of high street retailers including McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Debenhams and House of Fraser, as well as public venues such as The O2, Twickenham Stadium, Bluewater Shopping Centre and the central London boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

O2 Wi-Fi managing director Gavin Franks said: “At O2 Wi-Fi, we have created a “free for everyone” user model that isn’t dependent on being a paying customer of either a broadband or mobile network.  It is designed for the smartphone generation with simple sign-up and seamless connection which has meant adoption and use has grown rapidly.  Going past six million customers is a significant landmark milestone for us as we move into becoming a trusted provider of digital services.”

“We work closely with a number of the best brands on the high street to provide them with a wifi service that helps them engage with their customers both inside and outside the store. That can only be good news for the high street.  Our research also shows that free public wifi is fast becoming a right and no longer a privilege.”