How Free Wi-Fi Will Help Sam's Club Sell More Tech Gadgets

Last Updated Aug 11, 2010 3:12 PM EDT

Sam's Club has announced an unprecedented deal with AT&T (ATT) to provide free Wi-Fi in all its Sam's Club stores. The first image may be freeloaders coming in to check their email, a la the Apple (APPL) Store, but the increasingly tech-sales dependent chain will likely see a sales boost that should offset any potential interloping. In fact, it is a strategy that CostCo, Target (TGT), and other competitors may have to embrace.

Once the land of toilet paper sold in packs of 36 rolls and 5 gallon tubs of laundry detergent, Sam's Club and similar companies have diversified into more tech products. For example, since 2007 Dell (DELL) has been distributing computers through Sam's Club. Internet consumption is at an all-time high, and it only makes sense that customers would want to try surfing the web before making a major computer purchase.

On a larger scale, free Wi-Fi enables Sam's Club visitors to become more web-active customers. As QR codes come into vogue, people will be able to connect their smartphone to the Wi-Fi, scan in a product and get information from the manufacturer faster than they could over a regular cell transmission. Hugh Collins at Daily Finance reports that Sam's Club is also planning on releasing a shopping app with discounts, product info and user reviews, which shows the company is encouraging customers to pull out their phones and put them to good use.

As Tim Stevens at Engadget notes, it creates a sweet setup for the onslaught of Internet-enabled televisions. From Google (GOOG) TV to the next Apple TV, Internet televisions may be even more transformative than 3D this holiday -- and Sam's Club looks like it will be ready to let the masses see what all these new gadgets can really do.

Photo courtesy of danaspiegel