Tesco is trialling its first virtual store in the UK, after a similar experiment in South Korea was made permanent.
Located at Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal, the airside ‘virtual store’ allows shoppers to order groceries from giant touchscreens - during the often lengthy downtime after check-in and security - for delivery on their return. But the retailer is also hoping it will act as a spur to drive uptake of its mobile app.
Internet retailing director Ken Towle said it was an extension of its successful trial in South Korea, introduced last year, which allowed commuters to shop in subways and at bus stops by pointing their mobile phones at billboards.
“Our business in Korea is teaching us a lot about how customers and technology are transforming shopping,” he explained.
The virtual store will allow passengers to combine browsing, as they would in a physical store, with the convenience of an online grocery shop and home delivery.
Customers will be able to view a range of everyday products by scrolling through moving screens on large virtual fridges. By scanning the barcodes with their smartphones they can add products to their online baskets, book a home delivery slot and checkout. Their shopping will then be delivered when they return from holiday.
The two-week trial, until 19 August, coincides with the airport’s two busiest weeks of the year. Tesco staff will be on hand to help customers with the scanning and ordering process.
Although there are currently no plans to roll the trial out elsewhere in the UK, Towle added that the concept could work in other areas of high commuter traffic and said Tesco was seeing major spikes in m-commerce activity during both the morning and evening rush hours.