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Virtual grocery stores launch in UK and US

The world’s first virtual grocery store, by Tesco, opened in the Seoul subway last year and was recently named ‘Business Innovation of the Year’ at the prestigious World Retail Awards in London. Now they’re are popping up in the US and the UK., America’s leading Internet grocer, has launched more than 100 virtual grocery stores at commuter rail stations in several mostly East Coast cities , while Tesco chose Gatwick Airport as its first virtual site.

The Model

The first of its kind in the US, the virtual store technology features billboards of larger-than-life grocery aisles on train platforms in Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Chicago.

Commuters with iPhones, iPads or Android phones simply scan a QR code on the billboards to download a free PeapodMobile app and start shopping on the spot by scanning bar codes of the products displayed in the “aisles.”

With the Peapod virtual grocery stores, they can get orders started, make selections from Peapod’s entire online store, and schedule home deliveries – for next day or even several days or weeks in advance – making the most of their train rides.

“Getting your groceries on the way home from work just got a whole new meaning,” said Mike Brennan, COO, Peapod. “With schedules that are more demanding than ever and people spending 200+ hours a year in transit+, our hope is that consumers will take advantage of our virtual stores and mobile app while they’re on the go and enjoy the time saved when they’re at home.”

Peapod’s East Coast virtual store ads feature products that typically fill weekly grocery shopping baskets for busy households, including staples like coffee, condiments and cleaning products; soft drinks, snacks and cereal; milk and bread; health and beauty products; and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Once on the PeapodMobile app, customers have access to more than 11,000 popular and store-brand products, from grocery basics to farm-fresh produce; top quality meats and seafood; prepared foods and party trays; deli meats and cheeses, sliced to order; Kosher, organic and specialty foods; office, school and pet supplies. A variety of beer, wine and beverages are also available in select markets.

Consumers crave convenience

Convenience is more important than ever to busy consumers who are using technology to alleviate pain points at the supermarket.

A recent report from Nielsen finds that more than one quarter (26 percent) of global respondents plan to purchase food and beverages via a device with Internet access in the next three to six months. Additionally, 61 percent of respondents said they used the Internet for grocery shopping research. Smart marketers are responding to this demand and offering shoppers digital strategies to improve their online experience.

Brennan added that the Virtual Rail marketing concept is also an unexpected way for Peapod and its national brand partners to reinforce messaging with target consumers. “We all know how challenging it can be to get the attention of consumers in a meaningful way. When we piloted the virtual aisles in Philadelphia and Chicago earlier this year, we found that the advertising stopped people, it engaged them. That’s what we’re after.”

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The Tesco UK Model

Building on the success of its Seoul project, Tesco has brought the concept home to the UK on a trial run, targeting holiday travellers at Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal.

The world’s first virtual store in South Korea generated 25 million online posts around the globe. The Korean virtual store allowed commuters to shop in subways and at bus stops by pointing their mobile phones at billboards. Tesco is now trialling the concept for the first time in the UK, but this time using interactive digital displays.

The Gatwick virtual store will allow passengers passing through the North Terminal 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 the unique moving screens on large virtual fridges. By scanning the barcodes with their smartphones* they can add their chosen products to their online baskets, book a home delivery slot and checkout. Their shopping will then be delivered when they return from holiday.

Tesco is the first retailer to offer passengers a service of this kind. Around 30 000 people depart from Gatwick’s North Terminal each day and each has an average of 70 minutes of downtime while waiting for flights. They can now use this time to ensure they don’t have to make a trip to the shops on their way home.

The virtual store was open for business in Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal departure lounge during the two busiest weeks of the year, from 6th August – 19th August. Staff were on hand to help customers with the scanning and ordering process on their smartphones.

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