Virtual retail spaces have the potential to repurpose transitional urban spaces for entirely new uses.
We’ve noticed a number of retailers experimenting with virtual display formats over the last 18 months. These types of stores allow for almost any environment to be easily transformed into retail space, with very low startup costs and space requirements. By utilizing simple technology, transitional urban spaces such as subway and train platforms can be repurposed for entirely new uses.
One example of these types of solutions, falling within the larger context of the Elastic Environments trend, is online grocery service Peapod, which has erected virtual grocery shelves on subway and commuter train platforms in Philadelphia, inviting commuters with smartphones to complete their grocery shopping while waiting for the next train. After downloading the Peapod application, commuters scan barcodes located beneath the images of grocery items they want to buy, arrange for home delivery and complete payment transactions all within the app. While Peapod’s virtual shelves are printed and pasted onto traditional advertising billboards, similar initiatives have created illuminated virtual retail shelves for commuters on train platform doors and walls.
In another example, PayPal is trialling a new mobile shopping initiative that allows customers to point and purchase using QR codes. PayPal has created catalog ‘mobile shopping walls’ in 15 metro stations in Singapore. The large display features Valentine’s Day offers from eight participating retailers. The user will need to first download the PayPal QR code reader app, which scans the barcodes and allow the user to log into PayPal to purchase the items. Similarly, China’s leading food e-commerce site Yihaodian is opening 1,000 virtual supermarkets in empty city areas across the country.
To keep pace with the changing face of downtown areas as they transition from understated business and commerce centers by day into lively areas for social and cultural engagements by night, urban developers are designing infrastructure that can adapt to meet an evolving set of needs. These elastic environments accommodate a range of use cases, transforming any environment into a multi-use destination that attracts a mix of demographics.
Over the next 6 months, PSFK and a team of experts imagining the future of a city will be asking you what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. Tweet us your ideas using the hashtag of the week and view all the submissions at the MyIdealCity site.