Virtual supermarket shopping with a smartphone

Summary: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.

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."

Tesco Homeplus virtual shopping Tesco Homeplus virtual shopping Adobo Magazine's Cannes Lions 2011 feature has a large large version (4961 x 3645 pixels) of this picture.

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.

The Tesco Homeplus system uses Denso Wave's QR codes, but bar codes or even Microsoft tags could be used instead. QR code and bar code readers are available for most if not all smartphones.

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.

@jackschofield

Tesco: Homeplus Subway Virtual Store (Movie) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJVoYsBym88

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first webs... Full Bio

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