The Digital Age: Tesco Opens World's First Virtual Superstore in South Korea

As if the world weren’t consumerist enough already, shoppers in South Korea can now purchase groceries without ever entering a grocery store.  With the click of an iPhone, South Koreans can purchase (and never carry) “Homeplus” merchandise digitally displayed in heavily-trafficked areas like subway and bus stops.  

Created by Britain’s multinational grocery and retail giant Tesco, “Homeplus” is the world’s first virtual grocery store that also allows busy commuters to “change waiting time to shopping time” -- and it’s been incredibly successful.

At the Homeplus superstore, shoppers can walk down “virtual aisles” stocked with images of merchandise.  Each item is paired with a corresponding QR code that can be photographed with a smartphone, added to an online shopping cart, and queued for same-day home delivery.  The Homeplus app is now the most downloaded shopping app in South Korea, with 900,000 downloads since its launch in April 2011.

As strange as ever-present virtual shopping may be, the Tesco Homeplus video explaining its success in “[approaching] these busy and tired people” of Korea may be even stranger:

The video’s bizarre language is all too similar to a National Geographic documentary, in which Koreans are a consumer species living in some remote, unknown land: “We made an in-depth study into Koreans once more. Koreans are the second-most hardworking people in the world. For them, grocery shopping once a week is a dreaded task.”

What is really creepy, though,  is how brutally technological advancements and the increasing use of smartphones continue to deteriorate our social life.  What happened to physical, face-to-face interactions between two human beings? Instead of browsing the aisles at a movie or book store, discussing suggestions with real people, we scan virtual lists of recommendations, sacrificing human interaction.  Tesco’s Homeplus has exacerbated the possibilities of rekindling human interaction, becoming the number one Korean online market with a 130% increase in online purchases.

Wall-E comes to mind:

AlterNet / By Angela Lee

Posted at July 20, 2012, 11:50am

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