I’ve been fascinated lately by the impact always-on-and-in-your-pocket connectivity is having on shopping. Mobile shopping is transforming itself from a (presumed) on-the-go activity to one that can occur almost anywhere.
A recent Comscore study of smartphone owners revealed 56% had made mobile purchases at home. Another 42% had purchased items on their devices while out, (at a variety of places including schools, and restaurants, or at work) while 36% had purchased items on their mobile while inside a physical store.
UK shopping brand Tesco is now partnering with Samsung to take this a step further by launching a virtual pop-up grocery store in a Korean subway station. (You may also recall last year’s smaller, subway platform prototype).
Shoppers wander the physical aisles and add products to their virtual basket by scanning a QR code. Products are then delivered to their home.
The value for supermarkets is pretty obvious. No retail staff to pay, and an opportunity to store, pick and pack in the most cost-effective way possible. For users, the value is only evident if basic hygiene factors are accounted for.
- Scanning a product should ideally indicate whether it is actually in stock at the warehouse (a feature that still eludes many online grocery shops).
- You should be able to leave a comment for the packer (assuming the packer is human), for example regarding the ideal weight, or sell by date of perishable goods.
- Using the app, you should be able to browse all information that would normally be included on the package. This would include product (marketing) descriptions, ingredients and nutritional information.
- Oh and of course, you need to be in a city where there is network access on the subway. (Smart retailers will likely provide back-up wi-fi…just in case).
If they’re smart, Tesco would also link this service to the pre-existing ability to scan at home, and review past orders to pre-populate a cart. This would transform it from a single “do it now or miss it” activity, to a cumulative “do it whenever you think of it” thing.
Of course, an obvious missing aspect is still anything sensory. No more squeezing, smelling and inspecting fruit. Impulse buying may also be reduced as photographs yellow under fluorescent lighting, or simply because you can’t manipulate and otherwise play with the real thing.
Then again, people may bulk-buy, or pick up stuff they normally wouldn’t (it’s far easier to ignore that 1000 calorie tub of Häagen-Dazs if you can’t physically see it in your basket). Putting the store in the Subway may also capitalize on the well-known effects of grocery shopping while hungry!
So on the whole…not that different than online grocery shopping but with the ability to browse and wander (alone or with friends) which is admittedly very different (on a human scale) than punching a product name into a search field.