The virtual supermarkets can be found at 12 of Shanghai’s busiest underground metro stations and depict a variety of consumer products displayed on LED billboards. Virtual products include food and beverage groceries such as canned drinks, meats and sauces.
Users need to download a special ‘app’ that enables their camera phone to register bar codes placed next to the virtual products that, once purchased, are delivered within hours to requested locations.
Claiming that consumers are more willing to trial a new brand online, a study from Data Driven Marketing Asia (DDMA), a market research and consultancy firm in China, suggests that the online shopping trend may provide manufacturers with the opportunity for new product launches.
And senior analyst at China Market Research, James Roy, told FoodNavigatorAsia.com that the launch of virtual supermarkets in Shanghai capitalises on the smart phone trend but also taps into a large consumer market of people with little time to shop.
He said: “There is such a high volume of commuters on the metro throughout the day and late into the evening … it is therefore a good captive market of people looking for something to do.”
Roy said that the virtual supermarkets launched by yihaodian throughout Shanghai remain a novelty for many. He said they are likely to be a success but said it was too early to predict at this juncture.
He added that food and beverage manufacturers looking to tap into this relatively new market will “need to make sure that there is the right information on the product, poster or online pop-up; whether it is nutritional content or information about flavouring, it is important that this is on display for a product to be successful in the online shopping world.”
Still novel: food and beverages online
There are 485m internet users throughout China, according to China Internet Network Information Centre’s (CNNIC) June report; 66 percent of these access the internet through mobile phones.
Online shopping in the food and beverage sector is still relatively new in China, with the concept only in place for around 18 months and it leverages the trend for premium with consumers who are not price sensitive, according to Roy.
According to ECommercePlus data, Shanghai is the second top online shopping city in China, after Guangzhou.
Research in China’s 2010 market survey report on online shopping in China found that 45.8 per cent of respondents shopped online two to four times a month. The survey found that consumers mainly chose to shop online for convenience and time saving purposes.
The idea for a virtual supermarket was pioneered by Homeplus, Tesco’s supermarket chain in Korea.