John Lewis jumps on the virtual store bang wagon

November 30, 2011

John Lewis is merging the online and offline world with the launch (25th Nov) of its virtual store, by trialling a QR code window display in sister store Waitrose.

In total there will be 96 products featured in the QR window display of Waitrose’s Brighton Branch, including all the products in John Lewis’ “top 30 favourite things for Christmas” range. The trial is initially a one-off, but if proved successful, will be rolled out to other Waitrose stores. The initiative works by allowing passers-by to scan the QR codes for the appropriate product, which will take them to the appropriate product page on John Lewis’ mobile site, where consumers can make the purchase.

The launch of this virtual store aims to extend The John Lewis Partnerships ‘click and collect’ service (currently available in 129 John Lewis and Waitrose stores), where products are available to pick up from 2pm if ordered online before 7pm the previous day.

The disclosure of the initiative comes shortly after John Lewis announced it was rolling out free Wi-Fi to all its stores, in order to allow customers to compare prices with rival stores and drive its “never knowingly undersold” proposition.

John Lewis’ virtual shop is just the latest example of a retailer using QR codes. The most famous, and possibly most successful, example was Tesco Korea’s virtual supermarket shelf in a subway in Korea, which resulted in a 130% increase in online sales. Shanghai has ‘shopping walls’ in 70 subway stations and eBay is opening a QR Store in London’s West end in early December.

While the Tesco example shows the potential for using QR codes to drive sales, there is much greater awareness of QR Codes in South Korea as many phones have them preinstalled. It will be interesting to see whether this success can be replicated here in the UK – but as they are cost-effective, especially if users can be sent to a mobile optimised site – QR code Stores could soon become the norm.

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