Decoding Design

A test flight for Tesco's virtual shopping app

Posting in Technology

The U.K. grocer is hoping to capture consumers' post-holiday shopping lists before they even board their planes.

File this under first-world problems: You come home from a three-week holiday only to find that your bread has gone moldy and there's no milk in the fridge. Should you be so unfortunate as to not have a house staff that would have predicted and avoided this dilemma, you can now pre-order groceries from the airport, before the vacation even begins.

That's the concept behind the UK-based Tesco's latest convenience offering. From now until August 19, the company is testing out a smartphone-based virtual shopping application at London's Gatwick Airport. It has installed a number of touchscreen kiosks in the airport's North Terminal departure lounge and is hoping it can attract business form the 30,000 people who depart from the terminal each day, where they spend an average of 70 minutes while waiting for flights.

"We know our customers like shopping on the go and we know what a pain it is when you get home and all you want is a cup of tea," says Tesco's senior marketing manager Mandy Minichiello.

By the year 2016, 90 percent of the mobile devices used in the U.K. are expected to be smartphones, and U.K. consumers already fancy buying goods by phone -- they're expected to spent £4.5 billion ($7 billion USD) this way in 2012.

The shopping app is available on the iOS and Android platform. The screens include 80 different products (mostly basics like milk, bread and butter) and to select one the user captures an image of the item's bar code on the screen.

Once all products are scanned and the order to complete, the user selects a home delivery date and time, which can be up to three weeks out.

My first thought is that delayed returning flights could really muck things up, if grocery orders land at travelers' houses well before they do. But from Tesco's point of view, the trial is a great way to test consumer interest in virtual shopping applications while capturing their attention while they have a lot of down time.

Via: Future Travel Experience

Image: Tesco

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure