Woolworths Launches First Virtual Australian Supermarket

In a bid to capitalise on consumers’ increasing need for convenient and time efficient solutions, Woolworths has combined public transport and grocery shopping by taking online ordering to a station near you…well to stations in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs anyway. The retailer has launched its first virtual store in Sydney last night, with Melbourne to follow today, claiming this to be a first for Australian supermarkets.

Currently stocking 120 different products, the first virtual store is located on the concourse level of Sydney’s Town Hall station, between the Park Street and George Street exits, with Melbourne’s store being showcased at Flinders Street Station. Potential customers are able to go ‘in store’ and  browse a range of product photos, each marked with a barcode or QR code. Using the Woolworths’ Android or iPhone app to  scan the codes of wanted product, orders are then placed and finalised via woolworths’ online store, with the orders being filled by bricks and mortar shops close to the delivery address. The retailer’s usual $30 online minimum order value and delivery charges still apply.

“The virtual supermarket wall is just one idea we are working on to make our customers’ lives easier,” said Tjeerd Jegen, Woolworths Director of Supermarkets. “The virtual supermarket will be at Town Hall for a week and we will take feedback from customers throughout this time.  This experience will provide us with important information on how we can develop this concept into the future.”

Mixing train stations and shopping certainly isn’t new – just look to Japan, where this has been done for years. In fact in some stations, the shopping is so good that the station mall is seen as a destination in itself.  While the various Japanese rail companies don’t employ this as a tactic to distract from late trains (anybody that has taken a subway ride in Japan knows how rare an occurrence this is), perhaps Australian public transport companies are hoping that if delayed passengers feel they can put that wasted time to some use, then any consequent backlash won’t be so problematic.

Woolworths Virtual Store at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

While Woolworths’ presence at Flinders Street station may be unassuming, hidden behind a low fence, people sitting on benches and a row of parked motorcycles, the supermarket giant is hoping its impact will be big.

Woolworths’ Virtual Store at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
Product Wall at Woolworths’ Virtual Store at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

The retailer’s reps manning the 4X1 metre set-up told PowerRetail the Flinders Street Station store will be operational for two weeks, after which time the product on shelves will be changed and rotated according to customer feedback and sales results via this channel.

PowerRetail was also told that once a shopper has downloaded the updated Woolworths app, the app can be used to scan barcodes on items at home or office in order to get a shopping list started to help facilitate online shopping via Woolworths.