Sam's Club is hoping that free Wi-Fi access will be one way to lure more buyers into its stores, especially those who are shopping for Wi-Fi TVs.
The warehouse membership club owned by Wal-Mart announced Tuesday that it plans to upgrade its more than 500 U.S. stores with Wi-Fi by November.
Provided by AT&T, the free Wi-Fi will enable shoppers to try out the full features of Wi-Fi-enabled TVs. Customers will be able to check out Facebook, Pandora, and other online services on TVs in the store to get a better sense of how they might work at home, said the company.
Sam's Club added that it's upgrading its HDTVs to 1080p to offer consumers better picture quality and will likely roll out 3D TVs for demonstrations at its stores next month.
Additionally, in-store Wi-Fi will allow members to use their smartphones to research products and read reviews at the Sam's Club Web site. The open Wi-Fi will also let consumers comparison shop and even check out prices at competing stores.
"Our members are early adopters of technology and electronics, and we're excited to deliver an improved experience in our clubs," Brian Cornell, chief executive of Sam's Club, said in a statement.
The company also said it's expanding its Tech Experts service to provide members with free 24-7 help on computers, home theater systems, and other electronic devices. Members can call a toll-free number to get information on gadgets, even ones they bought at other stores, said the company. The Tech Experts team will also help train in-store salespeople on the latest electronic gadgets.
To expand its use of technology still further, Sam's Club said it's launching a mobile app in September. Available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices, the new app will offer members discounts, product information, and reviews. Mobile shoppers will be able to scan products on the go and create shopping lists to use in the store, said Sam's Club.