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Virtual Tesco at Gatwick

Tesco kicked off the holiday season with a two week trial at Gatwick Airport of virtual grocery shops. The ten, vending machine-sized screens dotted around the North terminal operated from 6 to 19 August with the aim of getting consumers to shop via mobile before they jetted off on holiday so that they “don’t come home to an empty fridge”.

Using giant touchscreen technology, they featured 80 of the most popular items found in the grocery section of The 80 items were grouped into four screens of refrigerated items and four of store cupboard items. Each item had a bar code and shoppers simply fired up the Tesco grocery app on their smartphone and scan to create a shopping list that they could then arrange to be delivered when they returned home. They could also get access to the other 19,920 grocery items on through the phone app if they couldn’t find what they wanted on the virtual shop.

Staff were on hand to explain how it worked, to talk shoppers through how to download the app and sign up to – if they aren’t already using it – and even a couple of iPads to let customers sign up there and then.

The plan, says Tesco, is to give consumers yet another easy way to access the retailer’s goods and to get more people to download the app, use it and see how great online grocery shopping can be. The retailer also admits that it’s something of an experiment, believing that sometimes the only way to see if these things work is to try them.

The retailer also sees it as a way of linking the real world of shopping with mobile commerce, to encourage more people to use m-retail. It also taps into the massive growth the company is seeing in m-retail. Currently, 16% of all online shopping at Tesco involves a smartphone at some stage, with half of these being shopping sprees that take place entirely on the phone. And this is growing in line with smartphone penetration growth, which currently, in the UK, stands at 50%.

Tesco’s Internet Retailing Director, Ken Towle, said at the launch in the North terminal: “Our business in Korea is teaching us a lot about how customers and technology are transforming shopping. It gives us a unique window into the future and the chance to try out exciting new concepts. The virtual store blends clicks and bricks, bringing together our love of browsing with the convenience of online. It’s a chance to showcase what we can do to the 30,000 people a day who will depart from Gatwick’s North Terminal, many of whom will have a genuine need to fill their fridges when they get home, and we’re looking forward to hearing what they think.”

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