What a Smartphone and QR Code can Offer Your Retail Store: Learn from Homeplus Virtual Store

Okay, okay – you might answer “it’s easy, you moron! Scan a QR Code and you’ll get the retail store’s contact info, web address or special promo” Well, you are right – but that’s what MOST stores incorporating QR codes do. Homeplus is an example of a company which takes things a few steps further (or closer?) Read on to find out…

qr code adoption

If you want breakthrough to your small business, you should go for the mainstream ways. You should do things differently. Why bother doing the same things 1,000s others do? Embrace innovation – it’s not as obscure as you might have thought!

I just written about why small businesses should go mobile to engage customers and prospects; the underlying reason is that we can’t expect to build something and have people flock to our business; that’s so last season! You should now be more proactive than ever, and there is not better medium today than smartphones (and tablet PCs.)

What I wrote was actually the basics – e.g. building a mobile app to engage customers and funnel them into your sales funnel. There are actually many ways you can develop things based on the basics – all you need is a pinch of creativity and a spoonful of courage.

One of the companies embracing mobile tech trends is Tesco. Expanding to Korea, Tesco – one of the leading click-and-mortar online supermarket headquartered in the United Kingdom – must think a way to grab a piece of South Korean F&B retail market pie; it’s a challenging feat – why? Because they need to compete with E-Mart, the market leader. Moreover, retailing is in a continuous slump; will Tesco be able to win customers and generate sustainable profits?

Competing head to head can be very risky – and resource-intensive. You see, Tesco was virtually a newcomer; launched in Korea under a different name, Home plus, the retailer needs to find a different way to grab the market share. One of the ways is by embracing technology.

When it comes to Korea, you can be sure that Koreans are tech-literate; they are heavy gadget users. Korea’s brand names are global household names: Samsung and LG, anyone?

With the continually rising mobile trends, Home plus decides to pursue something that has never been done before: Establishing a virtual store – with a twist: Instead of having consumers to go to the virtual store website to start shopping, they can do so… while waiting in the subway stations.

Subway stations? Why? How?

South Korea is the second most hardworking country in the world. Office people are working long hours, and they hardly have a chance to shop for groceries. Online shopping is common in Korea, but more convenience wouldn’t hurt…

Home plus brings the store right on the places where many Koreans stay for some time. No – it’s not restaurants or clubs; it’s the subway stations.

Not opening a kiosk or something similar, Home plus makes a great use of technology to offer the convenience: People can buy products right from the subway station – how? Home plus “furnish” the subway with “wallpapers” – they don’t contain advertisements; they contain life-size images of products you can typically find on Home plus stores. There are price tags and QR codes on every product.

Here’s how it works:

With your smartphone, just scan the QR codes of the products you want to buy – then you will be brought to Home plus online shopping cart to pay online and fill in delivery details – all done while waiting in the subway station. As you arrive at home, you will find your groceries delivered right in front of your door step.

Just watch this interesting video to make sense:

…and here’s the coverage from Japanese news channel NHK on the virtual store:

As you can see, technology adopted right can offer convenience.


As I have mentioned before, adopting technology for tech adoption sake is probably the biggest mistake you can do as a small business owner. You need to know whether a particular technology adoption can give you a healthy return on your investment.

What Home plus does with their innovative shopping experience may not be for your retail shop, most likely due to the sheer size of the projects and the amount of investment required to make it happens. However, I do hope Home plus virtual store’s mobile shopping can inspire you to think outside the box.

The same technology can be adopted to build something different; don’t reinvent the wheel – just take the available technology and make it your own.

Have a plan ready to do something close to what Home plus has done? Well, stop waiting; just do it.