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Virtual is now reality

We’ve all seen the YouTube clip of the first virtual grocery store by Tesco in a South Korean subway.

If not, see below.

Canada now has its first virtual shop at the corner of Toronto’s Front and Bay Streets located just outside the Union station TTC subway stop.

The Well.ca virtual store in Toronto.

Brought to you by Well.ca, a beauty e-commerce retailer, and P&G, the first QR-code virtual store in Canada that will run April 2 to 30.

The concept will cater to shoppers’ needs for convenience as all they need to do is download the Well.ca app (available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows phone), and scan the product QR codes off the virtual store shelves. The products are then shipped for free across Canada.

“We created the virtual store so that Canadians could imagine what the future of retailing can become. We wanted to unite the physical nature of a store but give Canadians the convenience of a hassle-free experience and free shipping to their door. It is a fun first step for Well.ca and there’s lots more to come,” says Paige Malling, VP of marketing for Well.ca.

How cool is that?

This virtual store concept could change the way Canadians shop, some say for the better.

Instead of rushing to the grocery store on the way home, consumers could be less stressed and complete their shopping needs while waiting for their train to arrive.

At the Toronto virtual shop, there are 120 P&G products from Pampers diapers to Tide detergent available to commuters.

Gord Meyer, marketing director, Procter & Gamble Canada said in a release: “Partnering with Well.ca is a perfect match to our desire to have our brands at the forefront of the fast paced and ever-changing environment of consumer digital experience.”

Virtual stores have already started catching on in Asia; some of China’s subway and bus stations now feature billboards with some 80 QR-coded products.

And following the success of the South Korean virtual store–the app is the number one shopping app in Korea with nearly one million downloads since it was launched last April, the company is expanding its virtual shopping walls in South Korea to more than 20 bus stops near universities across the country.

The virtual store shops aren’t simply relegated to grocery goods; it’s now becoming more pervasive in other retail sectors.

In the U.S. Glamour magazine set up a virtual shop at the Standard Hotel in N.Y.C. for allow for cosmetics purchases, while Twentieth Century Fox created a home movie delivery service through its virtual stores, according to Scanlife.com.

Opponents say these shops are a mere novelty and won’t ever replace the tactile environment consumers crave from their grocery shop, proponents beg to differ.

Malling says Well.ca is creating lots of technologies to make shopping easier for customers. “The virtual store has lots of applications and we are excited to experiment in the coming months.”

So while grocery stores in the physical sense may not ever be replaced, these virtual stores could offer a value-added service to consumers on the go.

And as real estate becomes tighter, especially in Asian countries, QR coded stores require no additional infrastructure is for merchants, retailers and consumers.

This is one case where you’ll see more virtual shops coming to a subway stop near you.

Check out our April magazine for a rundown on the latest in virtual stores around the world.

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