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.

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