As payments become increasingly electronic, and with advertising increasingly driven by social media footprint, having a low-cost public WiFi system presents both as a must for efficient payment processing as well as data gathering on consumer shopping habits. Looking to capitalize on the growing e-commerce industry is former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, who announced Wednesday (Jan. 14) that he will be investing $5 million into Purple WiFi, a U.K.-based company that specializes in offering low-cost WiFi for public and private interests. Joined by fellow entrepreneurs Iain MacDonald, Bill Currie, and Bob Willett, this investment will necessitate a board shake-up within the company, with Leahy expected to be the most significant addition.
Purple WiFi was founded as a provider of low-cost public WiFi service to businesses and towns for the benefit of patrons that can be accessed through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Businesses in turn would receive frequent analytic reports providing insights about foot traffic and what customers are buying.
"WiFi is something that is expected, for free, just as we expect access to heat, light and water," said Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of PurpleWifi. "But the big question in recent years has been how to monetize WiFi."
Purple Wifi has been established in various transportation hubs around the U.K., as well as Camden's Stables Market and Caesar's Entertainment properties within the region. Caesar's Entertainment representatives reported 2,420 new Twitter followers and 6,159 new Facebook followers in the year since Purple WiFi was launched in their hotels and casinos, which has led to better insights on sales and foot traffic.
The new matchup with Purple WiFi appears to be in the former Tesco chief's wheelhouse of improving customer and business relationships. At Tesco, he introduced the Clubcard, a customer loyalty program that helped grow Tesco's market share in the U.K. by more than 33 percent. Tesco has continued to be an innovator in customer interactions with technologies such as online tablet markets, even as it plans to spin off its data partner Dunnhumby, which was responsible for the successful loyalty program instituted by Leahy while he was with the company.