By Daina Beth Solomon
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Wal-Mart de Mexico said on Thursday that it will install Wi-Fi throughout all but one of its chains in Mexico by next summer, in an attempt to collect user data and drive online sales by familiarizing shoppers with technology.
Walmex, as the retailer is known, will bring the service to every store except warehouse-style Bodega Aurrera Express by mid-2018, said Gaston Wainstein, Walmex's senior vice president of real estate development.
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The retailer hopes that free access will help Internet-resistant shoppers become more comfortable online and ultimately boost its nascent e-commerce business, which represented less than 1 percent of third quarter sales.
Many retailers in Mexico, including e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc., are competing for online sales in a country where shoppers are wary of credit card fraud and often earn their living in paper currency.
E-commerce comprises nearly 3 percent of all retail sales in Mexico compared with over 10 percent in the United States, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.
Chief Executive Guilherme Loureiro also said Walmex will be able to collect data from users who use its website, helping to personalize offerings in stores and online with the ability to quickly adjust inventory and prices.
He added that 80 percent of consumers at Bodega Aurrera have smartphones but no data plans, and that Wi-Fi is already installed at members-only Sam's Clubs.
Walmex took a similar tack of appealing to hesitant internet users by installing touchscreen computer kiosks in some stores where customers can order products before paying with either cash or credit.
Walmex said in an online presentation last June that it would devote 10 percent of its 2017 investments to e-commerce, and executives on Thursday said technology and logistics are priorities.
With 2,339 stores across Mexico, Wainstein said its access to a vast network is a competitive advantage for e-commerce.
"We do everything looking at multiple channels," he said.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Diane Craft)