What would you say to shopping at a virtual grocery store, using only a smartphone and two dimensional images of the available items? Would that be enough to make you stop going to actual supermarkets or does the tactile experience of actually selecting your groceries, followed by standing in a checkout line appeal to you? Granted, it's the age-old argument that applies to Internet shopping as well. Would you rather touch the item before you purchased it or after?
Well, if you live in South Korea, you know have a choice between the two. Introducing the Tesco Homeplus subway virtual store, which allows people to shop for groceries without ever having to go into the brick and mortar Tesco store. The idea behind these virtual supermarkets comes from Tesco's desire to increase its customer base without having to build additional stores. Interested shoppers are presented with a two dimensional recreation of a Tesco store, complete with images of the available inventory.
To select an item, potential shoppers have to scan the quick response code with a smartphone or other mobile device. From here, the item is added to the user's cart. Once payment is received, the groceries are then delivered to the shopper's home, completely eliminating the need for supermarket visits. From Tesco's description:
Let the store come to people! We created virtual stores in subway station hoping to blend into people's everyday lives. Our first try was busy subway station in rush hours. Although virtual, the displays were exactly the same as actual stores - from the display to merchandises... People could meet Tesco Homeplus wherever they go, not having to visit the actual store. Moreover they could make good use of the wasted times and enjoy their free time.
Apparently, these virtual supermarkets have been quite successful:
After this campaign, on-line sales increased tremendously (Nov.2010-Jan.2011). Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Homeplus mall using smartphones. The number of new registered members rose by 76%, and on-line sales increased 130%. Currently, Homeplus has become No.1 in on-line market and is a very close 2nd offline.
There's also has an instructional/informative video showing how the process is done, which was found over at Laughing Squid.
There's even an infographic, with step-by-step instructions and other applicable details (click the image for full-sized version):
Is this the wave of the future? Clearly, smartphones will only become more functional as we progress. The question is, should businesses adopt such measures in order to adapt to the times or stick with the brick and mortar? It certainly would reduce the amount of real estate these businesses need, especially if they were operating solely from a warehouse that's connected to the local virtual stores.