Do your food shopping at the airport

Tesco (UK's largest food retailer) is branching out into the world of virtual shopping. I have already seen this type of system running in Japan and now it has finally reached the UK. For the next couple of weeks Tesco will be trialling its interactive virtual grocery store in the departure lounge at Gatwick Airport. They have installed four interactive screens that you slide by hand to display different sets of shelves. There will be about 80 products available to order. If you want to buy one, you scan the barcode with your smartphone. This allows you to order your basket of basic essentials and have them delivered the day you get home from your vacation or business trip.

The virtual shop front creates some interesting big data opportunities. As Tesco owns the app then they are freed from working with the mobile phone provider since the app itself can capture all the relevant data - GPS location, selections and identification of the customer. It means Tesco controls the pipe and with their very large and detailed customer database than could move this into real-time advertising for their other lines of business - travel insurance, mobile phone roaming packages etc.

It will be interesting to see how this develops both in terms of where these virtual store fronts are put (why limit yourself to airports when other travel options exist - train stations, cruise ports, ferry terminals, underground stations), how fast can the basket be delivered (could you order in the morning for delivery in the evening ready for a dinner party), how the data being captured can be used to drive new business opportunities and what extra data could be harvested.

Of course the downside is the obvious issue around privacy - your retailer knows you are away on holiday and your house is empty. Just how secure is all this data you are freely providing online? We have already seen the smart metering projects shut down across Europe because of concerns about data privacy.


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