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eBay to open ‘QR emporium’ on the high street this Christmas

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eBay is hitting the high street with a pop-up shop that it says will be “the UK’s first ever Quick Response (QR) code shopping emporium.” There, shoppers will be able to use their mobile phones to finish their Christmas shopping in “a matter of clicks.”

Open between 10am and 6pm from December 1 to 5 on Dean Street, Soho, the experimental shop will stock what eBay says is a “huge selection of top gifts from leading brands,” at up to 70% off. Shoppers can see the items for themselves, and by scanning the QR code on each item, they will be able to order it for delivery from eBay.

The days the store will be open fall across what eBay says will be the busiest online shopping weekend of the year. It predicts 5.8m shoppers will log on to its site to shop on the day it has dubbed Super Sunday – and which it says is set to be the busiest online shopping day in UK history. It also says sales will peak at more than 30 gifts being bought online every second, nearly twice as many as last year. It predicts 120 gifts bought over a smartphone each minute on the site.

The move is the latest in a number of multichannel innovations that have increasingly blended the high street and online. This summer Ocado opened a pop-up shop in London’s New Change shopping centre populated entirely by bar codes from which shoppers could order their home grocery deliveries. Since then, House of Fraser has launched its House of store format, where shoppers can both order goods through internet terminals and collect orders made online.

Julia Priddle, head of key account management at ChannelAdvisor, sees eBay’s innovation as one that’s about converging retail styles, rather than taking the online offline.

She said: “With the rise of smartphones and the rapid adoption of mobile shopping, shoppers are now able to compare prices and look-up deals online while browsing in-store, increasingly blurring the distinction between online and offline retail. The simple fact is that whether they are at home, on a train, or walking down the high street, many consumers are now never truly offline.

“eBay’s experimental store may only be open for a five-day period, but those five days are during the busiest shopping period in the UK – the run-up to Christmas. Shoppers can wander in off the street and use QR codes to scan items they’re interested in for Christmas and order them – for the cheapest price – from eBay. They will have purchased a product that they’ve seen with their own eyes, but won’t have to carry it around with them for the rest of their shopping trip as it will be delivered to their home.

“eBay are not the first to try this and we are likely to see many more experiments like this as retailers look to adapt in line with changing consumer behaviour.”

Our view: With this announcement, eBay joins House of Fraser, Ocado, and others including John Lewis and Tesco in experimenting with how the store and online sales channels can be blended and adapted to attract and cater for the needs of shoppers.

One interesting thing about it is that it takes online consumer behaviour offline. The only factor that will, we predict, save this store from being mobbed by shoppers, is that it is opening (in high street terms) so long before Christmas. Delivery times mean that this weekend is likely to be a peak one online, but not offline, since high street shoppers don’t need to wait for the post to arrive.

Which of this new wave of multichannel experiments will prove long-lasting is necessarily as yet unclear. That will to some large extent depend what other retailers adopt from these early trials – and what customers like, and therefore demand in future. But that other retailers will change and adapt as a result of some of these experiments seems inevitable, making consumer behaviour that is now new, the future norm across the UK, and perhaps further afield.

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