Everyone’s been saying that mobile is the future of ecommerce and today at Gatwick Airport, Tesco opened the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store.
The Gatwick opening builds on Tesco’s launch of the world’s first virtual store in South Korea last year which enabled 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.
The virtual store will be 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 will be on hand to help customers with the scanning and ordering process on their smartphones.
I was getting all excited about this, until I read that Tesco staff will be on hand to assist. That smacks of the difficulties I always have with manual checkouts in supermarkets – they’re slower than humans and I’ve always got something like alcohol, scissors or tagged goods in my basket which means I either have to wait for an assistant to help, or on one occasion had the embarrassment of a security guard demanding to search my bag while I stood their like a common criminal until he found the errant tag on a DVD.
For a mobile solution to work it has to be fool proof. Downloading the Tesco app and then registering with Tesco.com all sounds like a lot of hard work – fine if you’re already a Tesco customer, but shoppers need better solutions that don’t involve an app for every retailer that they buy from. Just how many shopping apps do you want on your phone?
Having said that we’ve all got home at 3am in the morning from our cheapie holiday to Ibiza (well some of us anyway) and there’s nothing more welcoming than a cuppa tea when you get through your front door. That of course is the other place this service falls down… unless there’s someone to let Tesco into your house, your pint of milk won’t arrive until the next morning. You’ll either need accommodating neighbours, or you’ll still be stopping at that 24 hour garage on your way home.