• Barcode Ireland Team

A stroll down a virtual grocery aisle!

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

The creation of the 'virtual' grocery market.

In it's endeavour to become the dominant supermarket chain in South Korea without increasing it's stores, Tesco Homeplus as its known in Korea, virtually created a new ‘virtual’ market based on the country’s lifestyle, and adapted to the local consumer.

South Korea’s population has the second longest working hours worldwide, some 2,193 hours annually, and as a result diminished time for shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Homeplus innovatevly took the store to the customer. By installing virtual stores in high foot traffic areas such as subway stations and bus stops, consumers could shop whilst waiting in commute.

Virtual grocery stores.

The worlds first virtual grocery store was installed by Homeplus in the Seonreung Subway station Seoul in 2011.

Essentially, these stores are vivid, pictorial displays of grocery items and their associated QR codes erected on the walls, pillars and screen doors of subway stations and bus stops. Made to be visually appealing to a captive and bored audience, the products are laid out on shelves and aisles, much in the same way as a physical store. In other words, a stroll down a virtual aisle!

Consumers simply download the Homeplus app onto their smartphone, scan the QR code of the product they wish to purchase which is then stored in their shopping cart. On completing their shop, the customer would then pay online, selecting a convenient time for delivery. Thus, the customers valuable time is utilised to best effect, and the need to cart heavy bags on buses and trains and eventually up flights of stairs to the door, avoided.

Hardly surprising then that the virtual grocery store has been a huge success with commuters activating 900,000 app downloads in less than a year, making the Homeplus app the most popular shopping app in South Korea. Homeplus online sales went up by 130 percent in three months, and the number of registered users increased by some 76 percent.

There are now 22 Homeplus virtual stores in South Korea, making the brand is the country's number one online retailer.

In 2012, Tesco opened the UK’S first interactive grocery store at Gatwick’s north terminal, where customers employ smartphones to shop by scanning barcodes on products that are displayed on electronic billboards.

Virtual stores are gaining traction in Japan and the US, where in 2012, leading Internet grocer Peapod.com, opened more than 100 stores in railway stations in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Connecticut and Chicago.

In a bid to revive the Kolkata Metro, a group of students from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, are motivating that major e-commerce players such as Flipkart or Amazon be enticed to start India’s first virtual grocery store on the platform.

Tesco Homeplus’s world first virtual grocery stores changed the way commuters shopped. They enabled consumers to grocery shop whilst waiting for public transport on the platforms of subways and bus stations. These stores created a new ‘virtual’ market for Tesco Homeplus, as time-poor commuters might otherwise have elected not to grocery shop but instead order in.

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Tesco Homeplus, DW Seol, said:

“I am extremely proud of the great work the Tesco Homeplus team have done to launch this idea in the Seoul subway. We are always looking to make the shopping experience easier and more convenient for our customers and the introduction of the virtual store is a great achievement. This is a real triumph for the Korean retailing industry as it continues to be at the forefront of technological innovation.”

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