The largest food e-commerce retailer of China, Yihaodian, has announced that it will open up the first augmented reality supermarkets of the world in ‘blank city spaces’ of the country. But if you visit these spaces without your smartphone or tablet, all you can see is “the office open space, parks and college campuses”. The smartphone users, on the other hand, will see a completely stocked supermarket, filled with virtual food. Users need to scan the food item with their mobile device and put it in a ‘virtual shopping basket’. The items will be delivered to them at the click of a mere button.
According to Yihaodian, each of these supermarkets will have a floor space of 1,200 square meters. Besides, they will stock 1,000 items at once; however, the specific items will be updated automatically from time to time. The layout of the first augmented reality supermarkets of the world is similar to the “analog” supermarkets’ layout. However, there will be no bagging section or long line at the checkout counters.
A blogger for TechInAsia, Steven Millward, writes “It’s an interesting concept, fusing the best of online shopping (the speed, the lack of carrying stuff or queuing, the to-your-door deliveries) with the best of the normal act of walking around a store. It cuts out the tedium of making hundreds of clicks on a website or within an app to buy common foods and household items. Think of it as e-commerce but where the “e” also means “exercise”. This is only the latest augmented reality venture from Yihaodian, which last year teamed up with the Chinese location-based service Jieping to create a series of shoppable subway advertisements.”
The ads of these augmented reality supermarkets appeared as photographs of supermarket with supply-lined shelves. Each object has a QR code printed under it in the photograph. Smartphone users need to scan the code and Yihaodian will deliver the product to their home.
Yihaodian is yet to release its numbers from this augmented reality experiment; however, many Western retailers have been successful in similar ventures. For example, Tesco, the UK retailer, has QR-based supermarkets working in South Korea. Tesco is also working o the same model, which boosted the online sales of this grocery chain by 130 percent.
Yihaodian currently plans to introduce 1,000 AR supermarkets. However, reception of local governments and concerns are becoming possible constraints at this moment. On the brighter side, if the venture of these supermarkets becomes successful and the local governments prove receptive, this augmented reality trend will keep on expanding as setting up virtual supermarkets costs almost nothing in comparison to brick and mortar stores.
The first augmented reality supermarkets of Yihaodian have been planned to open in the provinces of Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Depending on the translation, these virtual shops are called Unlimited Yihaodian or Infinite Yihaodian.