In December, Argos became one of the latest brands to experiment with a “pop-up” shop enticing commuters to purchase items while on-the-go. Opening temporary “Gift Boxes” in Paddington and Waterloo stations, the retailer invited passers-by to scan QR codes associated with certain products in order to reserve them for later in-store collection.
Chiming perfectly with our Smart Boredom trend – which describes the consumer’s desire (and ever growing ability) to use moments of otherwise unproductive “downtime” for worthwhile or rewarding activity – the “Gift Box” initiative joins a growing list of similar QR-code led promotions. Shoppers walking past Waitrose in Brighton, for example, were able to scan items from John Lewis’ “top 30 favourite things for Christmas” list. HMV, meanwhile, partnered with Twentieth Century Fox to allow those waiting at bus stops to purchase DVDs. Further afield, P&G and Mall.cz encouraged commuters on the Prague subway to shop at virtual grocery stores and, in perhaps the most-well known example, travellers in South Korea were able to fill virtual baskets with Home Plus products as they waited on platforms (continuing and finishing their shopping at a later point should their train arrive in the meantime).
Of course, there is at present a strong “gimmick” factor to this. But from a longer-term perspective, such experiments do show how consumers will be able to use their smartphones and tablets to exert more effective control over their time – completing relatively mundane activities in periods of “dead” time in order to free up moments later in the day for more entertaining pursuits. And we might wonder how many more commuters will be willing to embrace such activities when image recognition technology becomes sufficiently mainstream so that individuals can add items to their baskets by merely pointing their phone at a picture without having to scan a physical code (which can, after all, become rather laborious). Will concepts in the vein of Google Goggles make truly multi-channel and on-the-go shopping a more attractive proposition? It must be very likely.