Cool Retail: Tesco Home Plus Online

When grocery chain Tesco wanted to expand their market share in South Korea, they came up with an innovative idea.

Because the people in South Korea work long hours they thought of an efficient way to sell their products. The Korean subsidiary Home Plus put up life-sized billboards in subway stations with their range of products on “shelves” organized just like at a real store, accompanied by QR, or Quick Response codes. People scanned the QR codes with their cell phone and the groceries were delivered to their doorsteps after they got home from their commute.

The idea was to make online shopping more visually appealing at a time when people are captive and bored: when they’re waiting for a train. This is part of a strategy by Home Plus to try to become the number one supermarket in South Korea, where a fifth of the 50-million-strong population has a smartphone.

The strategy proved successful. Home Plus online sales went up by 130 percent in three months, and the number of registered users went up by 76 percent. The retailer is also closing the gap on its main competitor, E-Mart.

This approach augments their web-based store but it touches on something that I have suspected but wondered if correct: that for some products, certain people need to touch and see the product in order to make a purchase decision. Perhaps a high-quality simulacrum might provide a sufficient psychological surrogate to the actual item.

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There’s also (naturally) a video on You Tube:

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