Virtual Korean store has no products

Homeplus, South Korea’s second largest discount chain, has announced that it will open what it calls a “fourth generation retail store,” Homeplus Smart Virtual Store, at Seolleung subway station in southern Seoul.

The first of its kind in the world.

At a press conference before the official launch, Homeplus CEO Lee Seung-han said discount store chains must respond to rapidly changing consumer habits and behavior, and a new kind of virtual store will cater to skyrocketing smartphone users in Korea.

“Consumers will be able to order and get delivery of 35,000 products, ranging from milk, egg, pasta sauce, gochujang [Korean red pepper paste], tissues and digital cameras, by simply pulling out their smartphones and scanning QR [Quick Response] or barcodes of products shown in the subway station with the Homeplus app,” Lee said.

In fact, consumers don’t have to be anywhere near the virtual store.

“For example, if you want to order replacements of a bottle of water that you have in your hand, you don’t have to stop by the subway station,” Lee said. “You simply scan the bottle’s barcode with the Homeplus app.” The products are delivered later to home or office.

Homeplus explained it chose Seolleung station for its trial store because over 200,000 commuters use it every day.

Seven pillars and six screen doors of Seolleung station have displays of 500 products with QR codes, the square scannable codes that are replacing the traditional barcodes.

“Products will be delivered at a time chosen by consumers, and delivery fees will range from 1,000 won ($0.92) to 4,000 won depending on the hour of the day,” Sunny Jung, an official at Homeplus told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “A Homeplus store close to a customer’s address will deliver the products. Each store will make deliveries every two hours for a total of 10 times a day.”

Lee said he has been searching for ways to link smartphones and Homeplus stores since 2008, when the number of smartphone users began to spike in Korea.

According to statistics from the Korea Communications Commission, the number of smartphone users is expected to jump to 25 million in the second half of this year from 7.2 million in the first half.

Citing research done last year by the Korea Interest Security Agency, Homeplus said smartphone users said they use their mobile phones the most on commutes in subways and buses.

“When we first launched the Homeplus app in February, which directly links to the Homeplus online shopping mall, we recorded only 9 million won in sales through the app per week,” said Kim Jin-ho, an official at Homeplus. “But 650,000 people downloaded the app as of July and we see about 30 million won in sales per week now.”

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2 Comments

  1. that is so cool! i would love to try something like that.

  2. yea, It should eliminate lines while shopping…


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