Greetings. Giant thanks to my dear friend (and wonderful consultant) Becky Ripley for letting me know about a remarkable innovation that might be a sign that the future, or the end of civilization as we know it, has arrived. All with the simple touch of a finger.
Yes, Tesco’s Homeplus store in Seoul, Korea has proudly accepted the crown as the world’s first virtual store that is actually a physical store. Sound a bit confusing? Well it certainly might be for those of you who think of websites like Amazon.com, Zappos, eBay, and Etsy as “virtual” stores, i.e., stores that exist in what most of us tend to think of as the virtual world of commerce. A place where our favorite products are only a few keystrokes and a UPS truck ride (or drone flight) away. A place where colorful images, clever descriptions, easy price comparisons, and the promise of free shipping enable us to buy anything from books to bicycles to trips around the world without ever having to leave the comfort of our offices or kitchen tables. But imagine walking into an actual store where you can simply touch a screen with pictures of actual products and then have your entire actual order, or the sum total of all of your touches, appear at the checkout counter packed in actual bags that are ready for you to actually take home.
Amazing. Weird. Awesome. Scary. Or something in between.
I must admit that I actually like the act of shopping in a physical store. Though not all of the time. Yet there is something appealing about being surrounded by actual products as they compete for my attention. And there’s also something about being able to hold them in my hands and gauge their substance as I study their list of mind-numbing benefits, features, calories, and ingredients.
But maybe the folks at Tesco are on to a different way of experiencing products that is all about merging our growing love of technology and ease of buying with the human desire to still be out there in the public marketplace surrounded by other actual shoppers. Or maybe this experiment is simply a powerful reminder that in today’s economy there is no end to the variety of business models that we might imagine.
We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to do more than simply lift a finger. And when we never stop wondering how to deliver real value to a changing world of customers and technology.