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BizReport : : October 17, 2012

Chinese food e-commerce company plans 1,000 AR stores

One thousand empty stores are opening across China as Yihaodian prepares to launch a chain of 1,000 virtual supermarkets. No trolleys or baskets are needed, just a smartphone with augmented reality technology.

by Helen Leggatt

China's biggest food e-commerce site, Yihaodian, plans to install 1,000 virtual supermarkets across the country. Called "Unlimited Yihaodian", the stores will be empty and take advantage of existing blank city spaces.

The stores aren't centered around QR Codes, only a smartphone with augmented reality technology can bring the product lines to life.

The sites will be smaller than most major Chinese supermarkets in large cities, but they will 'virtually' stock about 1,000 products. The first shops are scheduled to open in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in southern China.

In crowded China, the virtual stores will do away with queuing or finding items out of stock and, of course, negate the need to carry shopping back home. Users may also find the experience of traipsing around a store far less tedious and engaging than clicking away on an e-commerce website.

This isn't the food e-commerce firm's first foray into virtual stores. Last year, Yihoadian placed posters in various locations in the Shanghai underground which enabled commuters to do their food shopping on the way home via taking photos of products they wanted on their smartphone.

Earlier this year, China's Ministry of Commerce approved Wal-Mart's plan to increase its stake in Yihaodian making the U.S. retailer the controlling shareholder, albeit with certain restrictions.

Tags: augmented reality, China, e-commerce, food industry, m-commerce, mobile shopping, smartphone, supermarket

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