Virtual shopping shelves

My niece, interacting with what she thought was virtual advertising.

This picture of my niece, interacting with a shop front window image, got me thinking about the virtual world we live in. I’ve also been shopping for a new TV with this same niece and seen her walk up to a plasma screen and wave her arms around and furrow her brow in frustration when she looks and me and says “it doesn’t do anything Aunty Nell!”


She has grown up in a world of touch screens and connectivity.¬†Like me, I’m sure that you’re almost always “on”, connected, online. Even when we’re seemingly not online, we hear a “ting” or a “buzz” and we look to our phone screen, which is usually within arms reach or only a stride or two away, and we’re pulled back into our virtual world. Many of us have “friends” online that we’ve never met in person but the virtual world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest is also where we communicate with our friends and colleagues from the real world – people we have known and loved for years. I have more virtual touch-points with my real friends than I do physical ones.


Virtual shopping shelves allow us to buy anywhere, anytime with our mobile devices

Using our mobile devices connected to the internet, we can shop anywhere

It is because we are always on, that we are forever connected to the online world through our devices, that retailers are starting to innovate and create convenient, virtual stores where we can shop, anywhere, anytime. We’ve been able to shop and buy online and from our mobile phone, connected to the internet, for a few years now. But the real world is now integrating with the online world, creating virtual realities.


I first saw it with Tesco’s virtual shop-front in a Korean train station.



Not long after seeing this video Woolworths in Australia started creating advertising at bus stops and train stations, with these virtual shopping shelves. Shoppers could buy their groceries while waiting in line for the bus and have them delivered to their home. I had heard that the Korean virtual Tesco shopfront was a hoax, a pitch by an advertising agency to get Tesco thinking outside the box and Woolies had made i a reality. I now know this to be false, but it was a cool story.


These type of virtual shopping shelves have popped up for grocery stores in many countries and now in airports for fast and convenient Duty Free Shopping. But Chinese retailer Yihaodian has taken virtual reality shopping to a whole new level, challenging how we think about mCommerce as well as location based, bricks and mortar stores.

Yihaodian launched over 40 large sized virtual stores, literally overnight. They created GPS locations that shoppers could only locate through the virtual screen on their phone. It is very cool indeed and I can’t wait for this type of experience to hit Australian shores. Who will be first? I hope its Red Bull, I can only imagine what kind of craziness they will come up with.