I love the concept of virtual stores. You whip out your phone and order merchandise for home delivery, typically using QR codes.
We first saw these pop up when Tesco launched one in the South Korea subways. They appeared in the Prague subway system, in Sweden's Jetshop and with Toys R Us' mobile interactive virtual store initiative. Virtual stores have been spotted in Australia, Singapore, Germany, Canada and the UK.
The system usually works through large posters of fake store shelves, all labeled with phone-readable codes. When you see items you desire, just point, shoot and order. Customers receive an automated message that confirms the purchase and work with vendors to iron down delivery details.
Now, China is joining the virtual storefront revolution. According to Springwise, Unlimited Yihaodian plans to add ecommerce to public spaces, with a virtual virtual store experience. (Yes, you read that right.) The store will actually project over the real world, adding another layer of virtual into the virtual shopping experience. Retailers will be able to cut down on physical plant costs by skipping bricks and mortar and creating a straight path from warehouses to the consumer.
It sounds like this may still be proof-of-concept project (if any Chinese readers can figure anything further out, please let us know!) but we look forward to seeing it pan out.
Right now, here in Denver, it's 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Heading to a public square to play shopping games with my phone doesn't sound nearly as appealing as competitive shopping in a warm, enclosed subway. In the TUAW newsroom, we're having a debate whether this new option is more weird than cool or more cool than weird.
What do you think? Drop a note in the comments and share your opinion.