If you can’t get customers, who are too busy to shop, to come to your store then take your store to them. With this mindset comes the future of shopping using QR Codes.
An increasing number of companies are creating virtual stores, that are made up of posters displaying the products with quick response (QR) codes, rather than having physical merchandise. Customers are able to scan the matrix barcodes with their smartphones, pay for the items in their virtual carts and then have the items delivered to their home within hours, depending on the items. For the person who doesn’t have time to shop, it is the advantage of window shopping without the hassle of waiting in a check out line.
For the last four years virtual stores have been popping up around the world, in countries which include South Korea, Canada, The United States, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Chile and Argentina. Walmart teamed up with Mattel to open a virtual toy store at Union Station in Toronto for a month of Christmas shopping. The virtual toy store is positioned so that 200,000 commuters a day pass by it. The hottest toys of the season are displayed to catch the commuters’ eye as they head to and from work.
Even though most companies offer online stores for shopping, the ability to browse is what is making these virtual stores more popular. Mobile devices limit the number of products that can be seen because of the size of their screen. The merchandise posters, however, allow the store to display dozens of products at a time.
These displays catch the consumer’s attention and help them find items quickly, which also allows them to avoid having to use keyword searches in an online store which isn’t as quick because they may have to figure out the correct keyword to find what they need. These virtual stores are also capitalizing on prior shopping experiences by including products on shelves, which encourages an immersive shopping experience that they can’t find from a mobile online store.
The concept of a virtual store began in 2009, when the British grocery chain Tesco launched its HomePlus service in South Korea. They installed posters that looked exactly like a grocery store aisle onto the walls of subway stations. When a commuter made a purchase, the items would be delivered to their door within hours. A similar type of service is now being offered in Chicago by Peapod, with several train stations having virtual stores in them.
QR codes have been around since the 1990s, however, the surge in smartphones has made them incredibly popular for gathering information, whether it’s for shopping, travel or anything in between. Besides Walmart, other major retailers have their own virtual stores in highly populated areas including Sears, JCPenney, Kmart and Staples.
This isn’t really a new concept, in fact, companies have been doing it for years in the form of mail order catalogs, dating back to when Montgomery Ward mailed out the first in 1872. Back then, item descriptions were combined with an item number that could be added to an order page and items were received through the mail weeks later. Today, images of products give a visual representation of the item, QR codes have replaced the item number and delivery times have been slashed to days, and in some cases even hours.