While you're waiting for a train, why not do your weekly supermarket shop? A subway/tube/metro station might be too small to hold a typical Tesco, but you can substitute pictures of shelves for the real thing. Customers can then use their smartphones to buy products simply by scanning their QR codes. It doesn't matter that the virtual shelves don't hold real products, because you wouldn't want to be lumbered with five bags of groceries on a rush-hour train. They're delivered to your door instead.
This virtual shopping system is already in operation in South Korea, and it has just won marketing agency Cheil Worldwide the Grand Prix in Media at the international advertising festival in Cannes. According to Adcom, the Media category attracted 2,895 entries from 67 countries. However, the head of the jury, Maria Luisa Francoli Plaza from media agency MPG, said: "It was pretty unanimous. When we saw this case most of us appreciated the difference and the consumer insight."
In its Cannes Lions entry, Cheil Worldwide said: "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 second offline."
Using pictures of shelves is not, of course, the most high-tech approach. However, it's relatively easy to set up, it can handle a large number of simultaneous users, and it provides shoppers with a reassuringly familiar interface. Where customers can pay with their mobile phones, it's also quick and efficient.
Similar systems could be developed for in-house use, such as ordering parts from a company store, or speeding up a staff canteen.
In the west, relatively few smartphones support NFC-based payment systems, but these have been widely used in Japan since 2002. However, that is expected to change this year. The fact that Apple and Google will be starting to use NFC a decade late should mean that any teething problems have already been sorted out.
Tesco: Homeplus Subway Virtual Store (Movie) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJVoYsBym88