Over the last year there have been several pilot schemes in Asia which have allowed commuters to shop in virtual grocery stores with their smartphones. These stores have been built in underground stations, allowing shoppers to scan QR codes and purchase products on the move. They feature virtual fridges and shelves stocking life-size images of the products that people might want to buy…
Tesco-owned Homeplus was the first of its kind, pioneering in Seoul, South Korea, and it’s taken off over there with a vengeance, with virtual stores opening in 23 locations across the country.
Comparable schemes are being piloted across the globe too; with New York cabs letting passengers buy beauty products, and PayPal launching a similar shopping experience on the underground in Singapore earlier this year.
Tesco’s brought this revolution in shopping to the UK this week, launching virtual stores across Gatwick airport, letting consumers purchase essentials to be delivered on their return from their holiday, whilst they wait to catch their outbound flight.
So, is this the future for retail? It’s certainly taken off in the East, but Koreans are notoriously quick to adapt and embrace new technology; more so perhaps that ourselves in the west. Added to that is the incredibly hard working culture over there, which means that they have even less time to indulge in the banalities of everyday life, making virtual shopping a welcome time-saver.
Gatwick is however, a captive audience, and Tesco’s are clearly playing on lethargy that follows a holiday…
Whether this will work in the UK outside of an airport is another matter, retailers shouldn’t underestimate the pleasure people take in browsing supermarkets, picking up food and deciding on the spur of the moment… but one things for sure, mobile commerce is definitely evolving, and if this pilot proves to be a success we’ll be seeing more and more of these types of enterprise across the West.