Virtual Supermarket Lets Commuters Shop in Subway Station

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The one thing nobody wants to do after a long day of work is schlep to the supermarket and fight the crowds grabbing groceries for dinner. Commuters in Seoul, however, now have a different option—shopping by smartphone in the virtual grocery store in the Seolleung underground station.

It works like this: Photos of hundreds of virtual groceries line the walls. Shoppers simply step up, take a photo of the QR code listed under each product and go about their day. If they order by 1pm, their groceries should be delivered to them by dinnertime.

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The company behind the virtual supermarket, Tesco-affiliate Homeplus, is thinking of rolling this technology out to other subway stations and eventually to other countries. Kwon Ki-Duk of the Samsung Economic Research Institute tells BBC News that this might only work in South Korea, one of the world’s most wired countries with 10 million smartphone subscribers and an Internet use rate of around 80%.

Could this work here in the United States? We certainly has enough smartphone subscribers at 45 million. A poll back in April found that half of all shoppers with a smartphone consulted it while shopping, although that probably doesn’t pertain to picking up bananas and cereal at the grocery store.

FreshDirect, which allows New Yorkers to order groceries online and have them delivered to their homes, already has a mobile app, which, really, isn’t that different from the experience offered by Homeplus. I’d make a bet on mobile apps, not QR codes (which seem to be getting less popular), as being the future of grocery shopping.

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