The BBC and PRI’s The World offered a story on the ‘virtual grocery stores’ that are starting to pop up on the walls of some of Seoul’s subway stations. They are the brainchild of Homeplus, the South Korean affiliate of the British supermarket chain Tesco (which has only a minimal presence in the US market as a part of the ‘Fresh & Easy‘ stores). The advertisements have images of the foods sold at the market and QR Codes associated with each product. Use your smart phone to snap a shot of the , which places your order into a bag or bags, all of which will delivered to your home.
Will such a convenience move beyond the Korean peninsula? Probably, though some resistance is found even in South Korea’s subway.
As the report also shares, many Koreans (like Americans) work long hours and see shopping as an opportunity to be socially and aesthetically engaged outside the office or factory. Having that liesure reduced to taking photos of QR Codes does not please some interviewed by PRI, especially (and not surprisingly) older Koreans. But even some younger shoppers, otherwise having lives fully integrated with their smartphones, argue that foods need to be seen, smelled, and touched before bought – senses that no smartphone has. Yet.
But as a convenience and a concept, the project – we believe – has a great deal going for it. For one thing, it provides yet another opportunity to use the QR Code that more and more organizations are using. For another, virtual grocery shopping does not require an either/or decision from the consumer. Lord knows this blogger would love to have the chance to buy some milk, coffee, and Cheerios for tomorrow’s breakfast without trekking out to the supermarket with hundreds of others as the workday ends on a late-fall evening. Then, when I want some good grapefruits or a prime cut of meat, the extra effort will be worth the culinary reward.
Do you think you would buy foodstuffs from a billboard with your smart phone? Why (not)?
Written by: Christopher Gardner, PhD