Encouraging customers to ‘try before they buy’ is at the heart of Telstra’s latest strategy to spike broadband demand in the mass market.
Its first Internet demonstration units (IDUs) — which have been installed at selected Harvey Norman outlets and Telstra Country Wide offices — are broadband-enabled PCs that allow sales staff to educate customers, Telstra BigPond managing director, Justin Milne, said.
The units vary but each contains a large plasma or LCD screen showcasing streamed content, one or more 15-inch monitors and broadband-enabled PCs with access to 100 websites, BigPond products and marketing literature.
Since IDUs were introduced on a trial basis six months ago, Milne claimed BigPond broadband sales had doubled in those retail stores equipped with the units.
Several hundred more are now planned for Telstra Shops, Harvey Norman, Dick Smith Powerhouse and Telstra dealers.
“We are still at the early stages of the adoption curve,” he said. “People taking up broadband are currently dial-up subscribers who want to upgrade. Not unreasonably they want to take it for a test drive.”
The move is the first national, large-scale, coordinated approach on this basis, according to Milne, and represented a substantial investment on Telstra’s behalf.
“There are some serious costs but we think the market has gotten to the stage where the costs are justified and we think we will get a whole bunch more customers by doing this,” he said.
Pacific Internet managing director, Dennis Muscat, said IDUs were a good idea but was sceptical about the impact they would have.
“It’s just putting some machines in distribution outlets. So what?” he said. “It’s good for the industry, but when you have a budget as big as Telstra, you can roll these things out.
“[Telstra’s promotional] spending has been phenomenal, particularly while the ACCC is still deciding whether the $29.95 price point is anti-competitive.”
The IDUs are also equipped with an 802.11g wireless router to promote wireless home possibilities, which was a growing area of interest for Telstra.
Muscat said the wireless market was in its infancy and would not become a significant driver of broadband uptake for another three years.