July 15th, 2011

Smart (phone) thinking

Every so often, you see something that genuinely makes your jaw drop. Sheesh, you think, that’s an astounding idea, why did no-one else think of that? A few days ago, the jaw-dropper in question (at least for me) was a piece in the Telegraph about what Tesco is up to in South Korea – a QR code-based ‘virtual shop’ service that allows commuters to identify and scan groceries while waiting for their train and then have them delivered only a few hours later.

It’s impressive because it’s pretty much a perfect blend of technology, convenience and logistics. Admittedly, South Korea is years ahead of the West when it comes to search and smartphone usage, but the QR codes and virtual store aspects exist here already – Amazon, Ocado and the like all have apps that allow you to scan and shop on your phone.

Where the UK would fall down, aside from the lack of a mobile signal in subway stations (!), is probably the logistical side. Online grocery shopping here is currently based around centralised distribution centres, which add time to the process. If you want your groceries in a couple of hours, they’d have to come from retail stock at a nearby store or equivalent. And, of course, it could only really work in urban centres where all your customers live close at hand.

Still, assuming that this is a harbinger of things to come, it’s amazing to see where we’re going in terms in mobile search and technology. The essence of successful grocery shopping is convenience, and this new service seems to be about as convenient as you can get.

By Anil Haji, account director at Velvet Integrated PR