Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Entering the Fourth Dimension… At the Core of Retailing Innovation

Tesco changed grocery shopping the way we know it, when earlier this year they engaged in the cleverest marketing campaign of 2011. That was lining a train station in South Korea with images resembling supermarket shelves and labelling each product with QR codes so you could shop from the station and have it delivered immediately to your home (read more here).

The innovation didn’t cease there. In line with a few other early adopters, they’ve now dived into the surreal world of augmented reality. 

In September as part of their ‘Big Price Drop’ media campaign, Tesco brought the fourth dimension to print ads, bus shelters and over 8,000 billboards around the UK. They partnered with Blippar, an augmented reality platform that is downloadable as an app on smart phones. It works using the in-built camera to recognise things in the physical environment and instantaneously provides a digital connection, simply by holding your phone up to hover over anything ‘blippable’ – no scanning (like QR codes) or photo-taking required. The response could be a web link, video, coupon, 3D experience or game. In the case of Tesco it links through to their website where you can download daily recipes or find your closest store.

Tesco is the first major retailer to deliver an AR print campaign using the UK-based tool. Angela Porter, senior advertising manager at Tesco, said “The Big Price Drop initiative is a major new offering from Tesco this autumn so it is fitting to partner with an equally innovative new technology for the launch campaign. We have been working hard with Initiative to devise an execution that takes interaction to the next level and by providing customers with the means to download store information instantly I am confident we have achieved that.”

Come October, they busted out the technology again to use as part of a Halloween promotion. Ads placed in the Sun and Metro newspapers brought animation and sound to the promotions around Shrek DVDs, Halloween costumes and treats. They also opened an online Facebook Pop Up store for the event, but that’s another story (read more here).

The fun doesn’t end there. Tesco have also introduced augmented reality into the online shopping experience. It allows you to check out what your TV or completed Lego toy looks like before you purchase… check out the video here.


This company is forward thinking at it’s core. In their 2011 Annual Report  (entitled ‘A Modern & Innovative Company’) they write of their approach to online retailing:

“Customers expect to be able to shop where and when they want – as shopping habits have changed over the years we've changed too. As we've grown from a UK supermarket chain towards becoming an international multi-channel retailer we've continued to innovate every step of the way.

We were viewed as pioneers when we first launched an online grocery business 11 years ago. It's now the largest, most profitable business of its kind in the world.

Using their smartphones, our customers can now scan the barcode of grocery items, order online and have their shopping delivered to their home.”

Tesco unashamedly admits their aiming to knock Carrefour off it’s No. 2 perch as the world’s biggest supermarket chain (Walmart holds the No. 1 title). Despite the economic doom and gloom that has plagued Europe in the past year, they’ve still managed to grow their store network from 4,836 to 5,380 and increase sales by 8.1% to £67.6bn. With attitude and results like that I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

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