Aug. 20 - Many of us are increasingly shopping online or on our smartphones, but UK consumers won’t have ever visited a virtual store. Britain's biggest retailer, Tesco, has just trialled its first virtual shop at London’s Gatwick airport where instead of shelves of products, shoppers scan a barcode to purchase their groceries. Joanna Partridge reports.
A new meaning to shopping on the go. For the busy passengers at London's Gatwick airport, Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, just trialled the UK's first virtual shop. The interactive store allows holidaymakers to buy groceries using their smartphones, and arrange for them to be delivered to their home on their return. PTC We're all used to buying things online and many of us already use our smartphones to order our groceries. But this is a store of different kind. All the products here are virtual, you just need your smartphone and the Tesco app. You open up the barcode scanner and then scan the barcode of one of the virtual products. Hearing that beep, that means the product has been added to your basket, and is ready for checkout. The "shelves" in the virtual store display 80 items on 4 screens - although customers can search for all available products. SOUNDBITE: Richard Davis, Passenger, saying (English): "The whole size of it, that really when I walked in here, that sort of caught my eye. But yeah it does look really useful." SOUNDBITE: Marie Alford, Passenger, saying (English): "Anything that's going to make life easier, is good, good news." SOUNDBITE: Ryan Dhanda, passenger, saying (English): "Yeah I'd give it a go, it's pretty handy." That might be part of the challenge Tesco and other retailers face. Many customers like the idea of shopping online, but haven't yet got around to doing it. Although the amount spent using mobile devices is soaring. The Centre for Retail Research says UK consumers are expected to spend 4.5 billion pounds in 2012, up 53% on 2011. It's a different story in South Korea, where Tesco trialled its first virtual store. Many more consumers there use smartphones than in the UK. The "stores" in train stations and at bus stops in Seoul were aimed at time-pressed commuters. Treeva Fenwick from Tesco says more British shoppers might soon buy using their phone instead of visiting an actual store. SOUNDBITE: Treeva Fenwick, Tesco, saying (English): "Around 25% of all of our online grocery orders involve a smartphone in some way, around half of us own one in this country and it's estimated that by 2016, 90% of all mobile phones in the UK will be smart. So it's really important that we anticipate those trends and what this trial is all about is seeing how customers respond to the technology." This virtual store may be a way for the world's third biggest retailer to advertise buying groceries online. But as our use of smartphones grows - Tesco hopes online retail will soon take off, regardless of the location of the store. Joanna Partridge, Reuters