Two years ago, almost to date (July 1, 2010, to be exact), Starbucks had a forward-thinking idea and thus changed the way coffee lovers (and mobile consumers) interacted with their favourite Starbucks location: in partnership with Bell Canada, they’d offer free WiFi access to its patrons. This idea shocked the industry, offering urban freelancers, at no charge, a comfortable, casual, and open-minded place to meet, network and get their work done all for the purchase of at least one snack or beverage (or, at the time, allowing Starbucks access to their information via Facebook).
Their competition didn’t know how to react, and Starbucks loved it. Not only did they have a stranglehold on the now thriving specialty coffee industry, they also had a way to rope in customers and keep them inside the coffee shops.
Fast-forward six months, and 9 out of 10 times walking into a local Starbucks you were guaranteed to see at least one person surfing the web on their tablet while enjoying a bevvy. This benchmarked Starbucks as the go-to for on-the-go professionals who needed a trendy, no charge place to meet their current/potential clients, while also to get their java fix.
Luckily for Tim Horton’s, a solid two years later, things would start to turn around for them. First, at the end of 2011, they would announce that they too would dive into the world of specialty coffee offerings, selling espresso, cappuccinos, etc. Then, the long overdue happened: in partnership with Bell, they too would offer their patrons free WiFi access.
Roland Walton, COO of Tim Hortons, had this to say about the partnership:
“It’s all about convenience and making life easier for our guests. Free wireless Internet at Tim Hortons will help people stay connected on the road in more locations than anyone in Canada and is yet another great reason to visit one of our restaurants to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee.”
But, all good news aside, could this partnership come too little too late? I mean, everyone loves Tim Horton’s, yes, but how many of you would conduct a business meeting – or, for that matter, sit for a working session – inside a Tim Horton’s? I am not knocking their branding at all, I just think they need to re-invigorate their image in order to win over the next generation of entrepreneurs, who, in the spirit of bootstrapping, would rather work away inside a coffee shop than incur the overhead of office space.
On the other hand, with their significantly lower prices (than Starbucks), offering free WiFi could prove to be just what the doctor ordered to pull urban-dwellers in. We all need to be connected; does it really matter where we are getting it?
Sound off in the comments below.
Photo courtesy Vancouver Sun