Can Augmented Reality Supermarkets Revitalize Vacant Urban Lots?

Yihaodian, China’s biggest e-commerce site, is planning to launch 1,000 virtual stores all around the country. Contrary to the QR code technology that was used by other companies around the world as well as Yihaodian itself, this project is solely based on the Augmented Reality (AR) technology and is called Unlimited Yihaodian.

The concept involves the establishment of AR supermarkets in vacant lots in cities around China, where people will be able to wander around the space, having their smartphones as their guidance, shop and have their products delivered at home. The idea of using dead urban spaces as retail areas, while avoiding any building and personnel costs sounds like a promising one.

Yihaodian Augmented Reality supermarket

The initial goal is to virtually ‘build’ supermarkets of 1,200 square meters each, which would have a stock of 1,000 products. This could be easily considered the largest virtual-store-gone-real when compared to other mainly promotional attempts. However, it makes me wonder how many square meters of real space this application requires in order to be functional. It seems fascinating to be able to do your grocery shopping without any queues and having to carry your stuff back home, while enjoying a day outside. I’m looking forward to seeing the first results (and videos!) of this AR retail project.

It’s likely that the trend of online stores in the ‘real’ world is here to stay. Except for the examples that have been presented in our 10 Trends for 2013 on the application of virtual stores in the streets, another interactive shopping experience has been launched in China.