Starbucks’ In-Store Wi-Fi Experience

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There is a contagious misconception among those retailers that offer Wi-Fi to patrons.

The belief is that the Wi-Fi splash screen should bombard visitors with a wide variety of content that is (mostly) irrelevant to the customer experience.

Wrong. If I’m using the Internet at Starbucks, for example, you can be assured that surfing Yahoo is not at the top of my list.

It would be much better to limit the content to things that are unique to the business, keep their number limited, appearance simple, and their exclusivity strongly highlighted.

Starbucks is not horrible, but it still suffers from being too busy, from weak messaging, and from missing anything really cool.

Starbucks Wi-Fi Splash Page

The top bar is actually a pretty good start. But I would replace the Foursquare check-in with a similar Facebook check-in. Spice it up a little by including unique store details in the default text. Something like duplicating the store amenities listed in the iPhone app would be great.

There are a few other things that should be done prominently to enhance the customer experience. Fill that empty space in the header up with the store amenity icons from the iPhone app, and when I click on it, show me all the details–store hours, and the menu.

An easy link to the store would be nice. I’m looking at a particular mug, and want to look up its details and reviews before I buy it. Gaining easy access to this will increase the odds of me buying it right now. (And just to be clear, no, it’s not the Michael Bublé song!)

Next, ditch anything I can get for free surfing the web. Since much of the WSJ content is behind a paywall, make sure you always show and link to ~3 features that require payment when not using Starbucks’ Wi-Fi, and make it obvious to the visitor what value they are getting.

Make room to show the current drink and food specials available. A picture of the yummy gingerbread loaf just might make me hungry enough to buy a slice.

I love the iTunes Pick of the Week download; and that should be kept. And it’s so much easier and more automatic than having to pick up one of the paper cards, remember that you have it, and then type in the redemption code. Frankly, I’m not sure I would have bought the music I’m currently listening to without discovering it on the list of past picks, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly, and will surely buy an album or tTherewo because of it.

That’s a good start, but to finish we need to back up to the sign-in page.

There should be two ways to log in.

  1. Via a simplified version of the existing screen, that only takes up the right half of the screen. Yes, you can keep making people read all the legalese in this one.
  2. A much prettier, very simple log-in that uses my Starbucks Reward Card account, and gently tells me I’ll be able to access additional things I can’t get with the other log-in. Like maybe that’s what it takes to get the free access to the WSJ. And cache the log-in so I don’t have to enter it every single time I visit.

Once you do that, then you can offer me a customized portal page that reminds me what my Rewards balance is, what music I’ve bought through Starbucks, and begin to offer some more social content.

Make me feel wanted and special, please. Use this to build a relationship with me, instead of feeding me content whose benefit to you is some revenue-sharing agreement with Yahoo, the WSJ, or ESPN.

Just my 2¢

Michael Steven Bublé

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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