Starbucks is testing a new Wi-Fi login process in its U.S. stores, asking customers to provide their email address before connecting, Geekwire has reported. Since rolling out free Wi-Fi in its U.S. stores nearly eight years ago, Starbucks has asked customers to simply accept terms and conditions in order to connect to its public network — no other sign-in process required. According to the article, Scott Maw, the company’s chief financial officer, first told attendees about the test at a recent UBS Global Consumer and Retail Conference.
“If you want to use Wi-Fi in Starbucks, we’re going to make it easy for you. Enter your email once, and every time you walk into the store it automatically connects to Wi-Fi, and you don’t have to accept the terms and conditions again. That allows you to have the convenience of connection. It allows us to have the ability to have those email addresses. And so, across those ideas and others that we’re considering, we’ve said we’ll have several million non-Starbucks Rewards digital relationships by the end of this year." Once opting in for automated login, Starbucks told Geekwire that customers can expect to receive periodical email newsletters and offers from the coffee chain — about one each week — sharing information about its stores, products and programs. Customers can unsubscribe from the email newsletters and still access in-store Wi-Fi, the company said.
Total Retail's Take: Good marketing move, Starbucks. The business implications of this initiative are significant. First, it’s a way for Starbucks to establish a personalized marketing channel with the 60 million U.S. customers who Starbucks say visit its stores each month, but aren’t part of the Starbucks Rewards program. However, asking for an email address could also alienate some customers in an era of ever-growing concerns about personal privacy. With Wi-Fi access now commonplace at indie coffee shops and other Starbucks competitors, the move could be considered a calculated risk from the company. Starbucks is clearly trying to form personalized relationships with its non-members. It also plans to open up its mobile order-ahead app feature to anyone this year. The technology, previously only available to Starbucks Rewards members, lets customers order with their smartphone via Starbucks’ app and skip the line. Allowing anyone to access the mobile order-ahead feature, which accounted for 11 percent of transactions in the U.S. last quarter, is another way Starbucks can reach non-Rewards customers.