Online retail has finally bridged the gap between the physical and the non-physical with virtual stores surfacing in Singapore and South Korea. Retail business and mobile technology observers view this recent “shopping experience” to be so in tune with young Asian consumers that are receptive to e-commerce and who lead mobile-savvy lifestyles.
Virtual stores exist physically but products being sold in them are not physically available and can be bought only by consumers online via mobile devices like smartphones, notebooks or tablets via apps. Usually found in mass transit locations like MRT stations (in Singapore) or subway stations (in South Korea), virtual stores take the form of backlit indoor billboards displaying actual-size pictures of products. Easy-to-follow instructions tell interested consumers how to buy goods using their mobile devices installed with online retail apps. Buyers then shop virtually and can have the goods conveniently delivered to their homes or offices. UK retailer company Tesco recently launched such virtual store shelves in South Korean subways under their HomePlus Brand while Singapore’s Paypal also recently began virtual store operations in MRT stations.
The ever-growing prevalence of mobile device use among many consumers in the region is seen as an offshoot of a hectic professional lifestyle characteristic of young Asian workers who commonly commute to offices via trains. This ongoing reality is behind Chinese e-commerce company, Yhaodian’s efforts to launch variants of Tesco and Paypal’s virtual stores by using blank city spaces in the country and augmented reality technology to enable customers to shop virtually and have goods delivered to their homes. Observers believe this new retail concept to gain traction further down the road as mobile device use, smartphones especially, continue to rise among consumers
While the experience of virtual business and virtual office set-ups have by now become so familiar in key Asian business hubs like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, the virtual store shopping experience is seen to present new challenges to online retailers pursuing this direction. There are advantageous benefits to doing retail via virtual stores like the following:
Virtual store retail to be even more successful also needs to pay proper attention to vital aspects like the following: