Coffee Chains in Race to Deploy iPads

The iPad is at the centre of a major battle for retail traffic among two of the UK’s leading coffee houses. The two unnamed chains have independently hatched a similar plan to equip each of their outlets in Britain’s major city centres with around a dozen iPads each, which customers can use to surf the web and check email, using the café’s free wi-fi, while they enjoy a cuppa. Now, the two are in a race against time to deploy the tablet devices and secure customer loyalty ahead of the other.

Both chains seem to have come to same conclusion: that by offering free access to the web via Apple’s hugely popular device, they will attract more customers from competing outlets, and also increase dwell time and spend. Mobile Marketing understands that both are also in discussions with online retailers about a revenue share from online purchases made from the devices by their customers as they relax over a coffee. A sophisticated IP tracking system would enable the coffee bars to track sales back to their iPads.

Customer reaction to the idea has been mixed. We went to our local Starbucks this morning and asked two people at random if this was the sort of thing that would make them choose one coffee bar over another. The first, Sandro Presso, a graphic designer from Brazil, told us: “For sure. You feel like the odd one out in here some days if you’re not staring at a laptop or a smartphone. In the always-on society in which we live, I’m only surprised no one has done it before now.”

But another customer, a Mary Cano, told us: “I’m against this on every level. I go for a coffee to see friends and catch up with what’s happening in their lives, not to surf the web. And apart from anything else, I can’t see how any business could afford to do this. It will costa fortune.”

More news on this as we have it.