A virtual store with no products

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A virtual store with no products


Customers purchase items with their smartphones by scanning QR codes using the Homeplus app at the Seolleung subway station, southern Seoul, yesterday, where Homeplus has opened the world’s first “virtual” store. [YONHAP]

Homeplus, the nation’s second largest discount chain, announced yesterday that it will open what it calls a “fourth generation retail store,” Homeplus Smart Virtual Store, at Seolleung subway station in southern Seoul today.

It says it’s the first of its kind in the world.

At a press conference yesterday before the official launch, Homeplus CEO Lee Seung-han said discount store chains must respond to rapidly changing consumer habits and behavior, and a new kind of virtual store will cater to skyrocketing smartphone users in Korea.

“Consumers will be able to order and get delivery of 35,000 products, ranging from milk, egg, pasta sauce, gochujang [Korean red pepper paste], tissues and digital cameras, by simply pulling out their smartphones and scanning QR [Quick Response] or barcodes of products shown in the subway station with the Homeplus app,” Lee said.

In fact, consumers don’t have to be anywhere near the virtual store.

“For example, if you want to order replacements of a bottle of water that you have in your hand, you don’t have to stop by the subway station,” Lee said. “You simply scan the bottle’s barcode with the Homeplus app.” The products are delivered later to home or office.

Homeplus explained it chose Seolleung station for its trial store because over 200,000 commuters use it every day.

While Android smartphone users will be able to use the service starting today, the Homeplus app won’t be available at the iPhone app store until September. Homeplus has yet to get approval of the app from Apple.

Seven pillars and six screen doors of Seolleung station have displays of 500 products with QR codes, the square scannable codes that are replacing the traditional barcodes.

“Products will be delivered at a time chosen by consumers, and delivery fees will range from 1,000 won ($0.92) to 4,000 won depending on the hour of the day,” Sunny Jung, an official at Homeplus told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “A Homeplus store close to a customer’s address will deliver the products. Each store will make deliveries every two hours for a total of 10 times a day.”

Lee said he has been searching for ways to link smartphones and Homeplus stores since 2008, when the number of smartphone users began to spike in Korea.

According to statistics from the Korea Communications Commission, the number of smartphone users is expected to jump to 25 million in the second half of this year from 7.2 million in the first half.

Citing research done last year by the Korea Interest Security Agency, Homeplus said smartphone users said they use their mobile phones the most on commutes in subways and buses.

“When we first launched the Homeplus app in February, which directly links to the Homeplus online shopping mall, we recorded only 9 million won in sales through the app per week,” said Kim Jin-ho, an official at Homeplus. “But 650,000 people downloaded the app as of July and we see about 30 million won in sales per week now.”

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

세상에 첫선 보인 ‘지하철 가상 스토어’

QR코드 찍으면 상품이 집으로
홈플러스, 선릉역 개찰구에 설치

홈플러스가 세계 최초로 스마트폰을 이용해 물품을 구입하는 ‘스마트 가상 스토어’를 25일 서울 지하철 2호선 선릉역에 선보였다. 가상 스토어는 개찰구 앞 기둥과 역내 스크린도어 일부에 상품의 실물 크기 사진을 붙여 놓은 게 전부다. 홈플러스가 자체 개발한 스마트폰 애플리케이션(앱)을 구동시킨 뒤 원하는 상품의 바코드나 QR코드를 촬영하면 구매와 결제가 진행된다. 구매 4시간 이후부터 언제든지 원하는 장소로 배달된다. 선릉역의 가상 스토어에서는 라면·커피믹스·우유 등 470여 제품을 살 수 있다.

 홈플러스는 또 자체 인터넷쇼핑몰인 ‘프레시몰’에서 판매하는 3만5000여 종의 상품을 24시간 스마트폰으로 구입할 수 있는 시스템을 구축했다.

스마트폰 앱을 활용해 상품 포장지의 바코드나 광고 인쇄물의 바코드, 컴퓨터 화면의 바코드 등을 촬영하면 된다. QR코드에 대해서도 똑같이 작동한다. 선릉역의 스마트 가상 스토어도 이 시스템을 활용한 일종의 전시 매장이다.

 이 회사 이승한(65) 회장은 “가상 스토어는 오프라인 매장과 같은 쇼핑 환경을 제공하는 게 특징”이라며 “가상 스토어처럼 기존 유통업계에선 찾아볼 수 없는 서비스와 상품을 앞으로 계속 내놓겠다”고 말했다.
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