Tesco takes virtual stores to mobile high-fliers

Tesco has dumped the QR code in its latest campaign to get customers to shop from their mobiles.
The supermarket giant has been notably active in the way it appeals to smartphone users in its supermarkets, and its latest idea takes the concept of m-commerce to a wider audience.
It has put a virtual store into Gatwick Airport to allow shoppers to buy a basketful of groceries while killing time in the departure lounge.
By choosing from a flat screen, users scan the items they want and schedule a delivery time to coincide with their return.
In Tesco try out virtual grocery shopping at Gatwick Airport, the BBC asks, “is this just a gimmick, or will the idea take off?”
Tesco has already tried this in South Korea, using QR codes, and it has worked.

The Brits are catching on, and the sight of QR codes in shopping malls is becoming commonplace. And Tesco itself has had QR codes in its stores for years.
But Tesco have taken a slightly different approach at Gatwick Airport – instead of using QR codes, they have used old-fashioned barcodes.
QR codes have become popular because they offer more alphanumerical characters and therefore can hold strings of text such as web addresses, but that brings an inherent problem for Tesco.
With stores in every town across the land, a solid connection to the internet is not a given. In it’s larger stores, it has rolled out free wifi for Clubcard holders, but with larger stores usually being in 3G areas by default, it’s actually the smaller stores which need this most.
So will this return to basics, work better for Tesco? I think it will. Despite being widely used, the UK public is slow to take up on the concept of QR codes, largely because companies have been too quick to use them without giving them enough thought.

QR code on a Tesco swede
Tesco have been putting QR cods on everything – here linking to recipes including swedes!

But the good old-fashioned barcode is more recognisable, and less likely to cause confusion. It will require an app, but customers who have the app, will already know that is has the feature to scan barcodes on real products to add them to the weekly shop.
So what Tesco has done, is just take their stores out into the public space. It’s clear that many of its QR campaigns have been poorly executed, but after years of experimenting it is building a profile of what works and what doesn’t in m-commerce, and this project will provide great feedback.
New ideas are evolving around visual linking, such as Blippar which doesn’t use mundane codes but instead reacts to colourful ‘visual’ designs. Perhaps these are just pushing the concept too far until we’re comfortable with scanning things almost by habit.
By using it’s own native app, Tesco have removed the need to download everything from the web, and can do most of the transaction within the app.
But perhaps the best part about it is that, with Tesco being the biggest supermarket in the UK, it’s doing a great job of increasing awareness.