The future for barcodes and how shopping is being transformed

Barcode labels have been used for many years now and have proved to be invaluable in retail and commercial environments. They are handy at storing information about products, can offer safety and security to valuable items and ideal for retailers selling their goods.

It is this latter application that has really taken off over the past few years. As mobile phones have become more and more sophisticated, apps that can be downloaded to these devices allow the user to scan in the barcode present on all kinds of things and use this for a range of purposes.

Supermarket giant Tesco has now taken the technology on to a new level as it hopes to transform the way in which people shop. It has recently been reported that they have trialled a virtual store at its North Terminal branch in Gatwick Airport.

Those users who have a special app installed on their smartphone can check out around 80 different products, each with their own individual barcode. Large virtual fridges are there to display what is on offer and customers can purchase what they want using the app.

From there they can order their items and have the shopping delivered to their homes by selecting a preferable date, which could be up to three weeks ahead.

With about 30,000 passengers going from the terminal on a daily basis, Tesco hope that waiting times of around 70 minutes will be filled by people shopping for when they get back from their trips.

After a successful trial in Korea during 2011, it is expected that the store will see similar results as the UK business tests this out during August.

Internet retailing director at Tesco, Ken Towle, said:

“Our business in Korea is teaching us a lot about how customers and technology are transforming shopping. It gives us a unique window into the future and the chance to try out exciting new concepts.”

As this is the first interactive grocery store to be opened in the UK it remains to be seen whether customers catch on to this new way of shopping right away, or if it will take time for this new technology of using barcode labels to really take off.

One thing is for sure, and that is that companies are researching long and hard about how they can use retail barcodes to greater effect at bringing in business and providing a better service for their customers.

Barcode apps on mobile phones are now so common it is not a surprise to see how our leading retailers are looking to make use of this growing trend and implement it into the way they go about their business.

The ‘pay by app’ concept is something stores have tried already in some formats, with the likes of Starbucks allowing their customers to pay for coffee using the app on their phones which is linked to their account card, but a virtual store is certainly taking things forward in a much bigger way than we’ve seen before.

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