Tesco try virtual grocery store for holiday makers

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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.

2 Responses

  1. It may work if they had a collection point so your shopping would be waiting for you at the airport when you return (although having shopping bags as well as luggage would be worse).

    Just ordering for home delivery seems to be a gimmick. It would not be until the next day that you could arrange delivery (taking flight delays into account) by which point you could have gone to the shops anyway.

    I would think having a few computer terminals would be easier for customers to use compared with these large display screens (and would not use up smartphone battery life).

    I think they are just relying on the boredom that people face in airports (hence why airports like to funnel you through the shops).

    For a few basic items (milk etc.) there are 24 hour Marks and Spencer food shops in both Gatwick terminals.

  2. When I started to read this I visualised ordering after you got back from the holiday when you were still in the airport. Then I got the impression that you booked your shopping before you flew out on your holiday.

    Thus by the end I was confused. If booking before you fly out on your holiday would only really be successful if everything went according to plan. So no Airlines of Travel Companies going bust when you are sunning yourself on the beach or Spanish Air Traffic Controllers Strikes.

    Otherwise your transport plans will be completely up in the air with no reasonable estimate of ETA Home.

    Then if you live a distance from the Airport you have to take into account all the possible transport delays. Which could see somebody like me living 300+ miles away from Gatwick with any estimate of ETA Home really being a guess. It might be OK for such as Chris Dawson living in Thatcham only whatever miles it is from Gatwick.

    I can imagine the situation. You booked your shopping and delivery based upon the times quoted in the holiday brochure. Then there are delays and yet more delays.

    You finally get home 2 or 3 days later in the middle of the night to find that the shopping was left on the front doorstep and it was a hot day. All the milk is off. The Ice Cream has melted. The fresh vegetables are now compost.

    But an interesting experiment.


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