A major South Korean retailer has opened what it appears to be the world’s first virtual store geared to smartphone users, with shoppers scanning barcodes of products displayed in a Seoul subway station. Homeplus, the nation’s second largest discount chain, is offering 500 items including food, electronics, office supplies and toiletries at its “store” at Seolleung station in the south of the city of 10 million.
Seven pillars and six platform screen doors have been plastered with images of life-size store shelves filled with goods — such as milk, apples, a bag of rice or school backpacks — which each carry a small barcode. Shoppers download a related application on their smartphone and make purchases by taking photos of the barcodes.
“You place an order when you go to work in the morning and can see the items delivered at home when you come home at night,” said a spokeswoman for Homeplus. In fact, consumers don’t have to be anywhere near the virtual store. For example, if you want to order replacements of a bottle of water that you have in your hand, you don’t have to stop by the subway station. You simply scan the bottle’s barcode with the Homeplus app. The products are delivered later to home or office. Currently, only Android smartphone users will be able to use the service that launched last week. Not that Homeplus hasn’t made an app iPhone, it’s just Steve Jobs and Co. hasn’t approved it yet.