S. Korea chain opens 'virtual' store in subway station

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    Customers purchase items with their smartphones by scanning QR codes using the Homeplus app at the Seolleung subway station


    One of South Korea’s largest retailers, HomePlus, is experimenting with letting customers shop using their smartphones – but the experiment is not online.

    The company is using advertisements in a Seoul subway station to display items. Consumers with smartphones – Android models for now, iPhones after the company gets its app approved – can go up to the item, scan a barcode and then place an order for delivery to their homes.

    At Seoulleung subway station on Seoul’s south side, HomePlus has plastered images of 470 products on seven pillars and six screens mounted on the protective wall separating the platform from the subway train.

    “The virtual shop brings us whole different concept of consuming,” Jino Kim, strategy planning director of HomePlus, said in an interview. “A customer doesn’t need to go the shop anymore. The shop will visit the customer.”

    He said the firm is testing the concept now but, if it goes well, is likely to expand the idea to subway stations near universities, aiming at young adults who tend to have smartphones.

    South Korea has about 15 million smartphone users and some analysts believe that will climb to around 20 million by the end of the year, or nearly half the country’s population of 49 million

    HomePlus already allows online shopping via computer and smartphone, with 35,000 products available. Delivery charges range from about $1 to $4. The company has 125 warehouse-sized stores around the country.
     
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