Virtual Supermarket: South Koreans Grocery Shop on Subway Platform With Smartphones

If you click it, someone will deliver it. (Photo: Courtesy of Design Boom)
Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Talk about shopping on the go.

European discount supermarket chain Home Plus, a subsidiary of Tesco, has installed a life-size virtual grocery store in a South Korean subway platform that allows commuters to shop for food while they wait for their train.

Each item on the virtual shelf is emblazoned with a QR (quick response) code. After commuter-shoppers photograph the code with the Home Plus smartphone app, it is sent into a virtual shopping cart. Once checkout is completed, the actual food products are delivered to the buyer’s home within 24 hours.

Home Plus is reporting a 130 percent increase in online sales, with more than 10,000 customers using the virtual service.

The logical question for U.S. readers is: are we the next frontier in virtual shopping in unusual places?

There certainly does appear to be room in the marketplace for growth.

In 2008, just 0.2 percent of the food and beverage industry's sales were completed online, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Abel Sanchez, a lead researcher at MIT's Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory, told Technology Review that supermarket technology is on the precipice of a revolution: "Think of the early days of the Web versus today. In the early 1990s, the Web was one way, like a paper book. Today, the Web is full of interaction; it's how we do our jobs. I think the supermarket will go through a similar transformation."

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