eBay is opening a temporary physical store in the West End of London before Christmas. What’s so special about that? No tills – all purchases made using QR codes and smart phones.
The latest store to open up in London’s West End prior to Christmas isn’t Zara, or Uniqlo, or any of the emerging big name fashion houses. It’s eBay, with a pop-up store planned for the high street boasting an innovative twist.
Featuring eBay’s top 200 bestselling items, shoppers can only purchase by scanning the QR codes on the products using their smartphone to complete the purchase. Goods will then be delivered to the customer’s address. eBay trialled the same concept in New York previously, but the London store is considered to be in a better location – and the popularity of smartphone shopping is surging.
“eBay’s London store isn’t about an online retailer moving offline, it is about the convergence of offline and online retail,” says Julia Priddle, Head of Key Account Management, ChannelAdvisor. “With the rise of smartphones and the rapid adoption of mobile shopping, shoppers are now able to compare prices and look up deals online while browsing in-store, increasingly blurring the distinction between online and offline retail. The simple fact is that whether they are at home, on a train, or walking down the high street, many consumers are now never truly offline.”
Is eBay onto a winner?
“This is a smart move for three reasons,” says Andy Powell, director of Agile Commerce Consulting. “Firstly, it positions eBay as a high street brand with physical presence. Secondly, it points the way to the change in retail real estate which is coming in the age of agile commerce – smaller stores, highly experiential and very different to traditional spaces. Finally, it is a further working trial of the true propensity for consumers to use mobile as a mainstream transactional shopping medium. We all know the potential of mobile, but just what kind of volume could this actually generate? That will be a key learning for them.”
The eBay store is scheduled to open on December 1, 2011 for just five days as an experiment that, if successful, could change the nature of high street shopping forever.
“eBay’s experimental store may only be open for a five-day period, but those five days are during the busiest shopping period in the UK – the run-up to Christmas,” says Priddle. “Shoppers can wander in off the street and use QR codes to scan items they’re interested in for Christmas and order them – for the cheapest price – from eBay. They will have purchased a product that they’ve seen with their own eyes, but won’t have to carry it around with them for the rest of their shopping trip as it will be delivered to their home.
“eBay is not the first to try this, with House of Fraser and Tesco also experimenting with similar initiatives and we are likely to see many more experiments like this as retailers look to adapt in line with changing consumer behaviour.”