Supermarket giant Tesco has stolen the march on its rivals in the battle for convenient shopping by trialling virtual fridges at Gatwick's north terminal.
Huge electronic 'fridges' will allow customers to scroll through 80 products before placing a shopping order, which will be delivered as you return home.
Customers will need to download the Tesco app from the App Store, Google Play or Android Market to scan products' barcodes using their smartphone, as well as registering with Tesco.com.
The two-week trial, running from 6 August to 19 August, follows an earlier trial in South Korea, which allowed commuters to shop in underground stops and at bus stops by pointing their mobile phones at billboards. The UK initiative uses interactive digital displays for the first time.
Tesco uses a barcode scanner to order goods
Tesco’s internet retailing director, Ken Towle, said: “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 shopping. 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 need to fill their fridges when they get home, and we’re looking forward to hearing what they think.”
Darren Shirley, analyst at Shore Capital, told the Huffington Post UK it was far too early to discern if virtual fridges were the future of supermarket shopping, but acknowledged there could be a market for it.
"It may be a useful service for the time-poor consumers; convenience has been the strongest element for Tesco, but at the moment this isn't something worth getting carried away about."
The move could also be seen as a way for Tesco to increase its number of app users; currently Tesco reports 20 million customers through its physical stores each fortnight, but just 1.3 million active app users.
Grocery trade body IGD told Huffington Post UK it had witnessed an increase in technological innovations from retailers looking to help consumer shop "anywhere, anytime".
Jonathan Gunz, IGD’s senior retail innovation analyst said: “Virtual grocery stores are part of a rapidly developing trend for convenient and technology-driven shopping solutions and many global retailers have started to experiment with them.
“Our shopper research indicates a desire for this kind of technology. Around two fifths (41%) of connected shoppers in Britain tell us they would like to use a smartphone as they shop for food and groceries in the future”.
Morrisons is the only large supermarket to not yet offer a home delivery shopping option, although there are plans to introduce such a service at some point soon. Marketing Week noted in June that Morrisons, as the official food supplier for the Big Brother house, was establishing itself as a grocery delivery service, even before it offers home delivery.
Responding directly to its rival's move, a spokesman from Asda said: "It's an interesting concept, trying to get customers who are about to go on holiday to start building an online basket via a smartboard in a terminal.
"We're finding more of our customers love shopping on the move with our Android and iPhone Apps which have the highest customer ratings of any grocery retailer in the app stores."
Waitrose told the Huffington Post UK it had no plans to offer a similar service, however, John Lewis trialled a virtual shopping window last Christmas in the Brighton Waitrose branch, which allowed shoppers to click and collect.
The trial was followed by John Lewis’s first app, a transactional mobile site, and the introduction of WiFi in its shops.
After testing the technology in window sites in Autumn 2011, John Lewis rolled the campaign out to six shops for Spring 2012.
A spokesman for John Lewis told the Huffington Post UK: "As customers became more familiar with the technology, click throughs increased, and we saw a 300% uplift in site visits from the QR code in May and June of this year, a level we maintained through Summer 2012."
Ocado also launched its third virtual wall, currently standing at the Birmingham Bullring, on 16 July for one month. As of June 2012, mobile devices were used in 24 per cent of Ocado checkouts.
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