Tesco’s virtual subway supermarket

Solving the problem of being time poor with the weekly burden of supermarket shopping, Tesco (Home plus in South Korea) decided to offer commuters an easier solution.*

Tesco 'Homeplus' underground virtual supermarket in South Korea

As number 2 in grocery shopping in South Korea, Tesco wanted to beat the competition to draw closer to its ultimate aim: global market domination (my words). Without as many stores as the supermarket leader, E Mart, Tesco needed to try a new approach.

So they took photos of supermarket shelves stocked full of goods and stuck them up in tube stations. Each product is labelled with a code consumers can scan using their smartphones, adding the item to the basket in their app for purchase and delivery later.

It makes the mundane fun. Much better than the depressing after work grind in my local real life Tesco, or the demoralising sights of Lidl. It’s a practical way of saving time and a decent use of QR codes (see previous rant Does anyone really like QR codes?)

South Korea actually has signal on the underground too, so Tesco avoids the stupid points I have mentally awarded all brands guilty of putting QR codes around the underground in London.

There are obvious drawbacks though. Unfortunately it’s not a real alternative to the bleak old supermarket. Imagine trying to do your weekly shop at 6.30pm on the central line. Or wilfully wandering up and down the platform on a Saturday morning, determinedly looking for that elusive bottle of HP without a Tesco employee in sight.

This probably explains why, despite being a successful campaign that increased online sales by 130%, it didn’t catapult ‘Home plus’ to number 1 position as cited as the campaign’s mission. But realistically, this was probably never its true objective, although every little helps (couldn’t resist). The campaign led to higher digital sales, it raised awareness and positioned Tesco as convenient, empathetic and up-to-date. Successful yes; grocery leader changing? Not yet.

However, this is undeniably a great tool for buying a few items and passing time as you wait for the tube. If Boots did the same in London (in an ideal world, where there is phone signal in the underground) I would find myself buying all kinds of unnecessary crap. Pre-foundation skin primer? Volumising hair powder? This season’s nail buffer? They would all be mine!

The ‘virtual supermarket’ has put Tesco (or rather, their agency) up in my estimation a few notches. I look forward to seeing something similar on the central line soon!

*I know this was mostly blogged about back in June, but I just found it and can’t help myself


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