Thursday Salute to Originals: A New Reality for Virtual Shopping

As any seasoned public transportation veteran knows, waiting comes with the territory. Whether riding a bus or train, the peculiarities of traffic and passengers ensure that transit schedules often have little resemblance to real-world arrivals and departures. These inconsistencies become especially acute when one needs to run errands before or after work. Public transit also doesn’t lend itself well to grocery shopping. Carrying bags of food or navigating a push caddie through a busy subway station often leads to broken eggs, misshapen bread, and smushed bananas.

Riders can fret no longer. A pilot program in Seoul, started by Tesco-owned Homeplus last November, puts the supermarket in the station. Making very practical use of those QR codes that seem to pop-up everywhere, this concept puts virtual stores along the walls in life-sized displays that mirror exactly the size and shape of what one would see on the shelves. The commuter simply scans a product with their smartphones to read detailed nutrition information and then places the items in virtual shopping carts. Once the shopping is done, consumers can buy through their phone and arrange for home delivery or store pick-up.

Made realistic due to the immense adoption rate of smartphones by Koreans, Homeplus’ concept promises to ease both the burden of shopping and public transit riding. As the pictures show, these virtual stores differ from regular online shopping by displaying their wares with exceptional realism. During the three-month trial period, this led to over ten thousand individuals shopping at these virtual stores and general online purchases rising by one-hundred thirty percent. Bringing even more customers “into” its stores, the company has plans to expand the concept out of public transit to other high traffic areas throughout the city.

The recipient of three awards at the 2011 Cannes Festival of Creativity including Grand Prize in Media, virtual stores demonstrate the awesome potential of smartphones besides just for playing Angry Birds. Other retailers, such as Walmart, have already recognized the advantages of displaying virtual shelves to consumers and have plans for their own test programs. A plus for all, we can’t wait to make our waiting a little more productive.

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