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Chinese e-retailer opens 1,000 virtual stores


Yihaodian, one of China's top e-commerce websites, has launched 1,000 virtual 3-D stores overnight. The stores are located by some of China’s most iconic landmarks as well as in front of several of Yihaodian's  brick & mortar competitors.

People with the Yihaodian Virtual Store App on their smartphone can see a fully stocked supermarket when they walk by the virtual stores in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Each store carries virtual "food" that shoppers can scan to put in a “virtual shopping basket” and have delivered at the click of a button, said the Huffington Post.

Visitors without the smartphone app won't even notice the store. They'll just see the office open space, parks and college campuses surrounding it.

Yihaodian's virtual stores are the first to use GPS location tagged augmented reality buildings where consumers can actually go shopping.

Each supermarket features 13,000 square feet of floor space and stocks 1,000 items, although the specific items in stock will be automatically updated from time to time, the Telegraph reports.

When seen from a cellphone, the layout of these virtual supermarkets is similar to the layout of "analog" supermarkets, minus the bagging section and the long line for checkout.

“It works just like visiting a traditional offline supermarket. You enter the store and browse the aisles for products then buy them before you leave the shop. All this is possible with the Yihaodian Virtual Store App,” said Sascha Engel, national director, digital lab for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather in China.

Yihaodian teamed up with Ogilvy & Mather to create the virtual stores that are packed with promotional discount coupons and high-value, free gift vouchers for shoppers.

Yihaodian chairman Yu Gang said: “The most distinguishing feature of our augmented reality 3-D virtual stores is its bringing online shopping to the offline world, combining the advantages of online and traditional retail through constant innovation.”

The retailer added that not only is this one-stop shopping experience cost-effective, what makes it groundbreaking is that it’s a direct home delivery service that’s free from the restrictions of store location, shelf space and operating hours through its mobile and e-commerce capabilities.

Gang added that consumers can enjoy the convenience of online shopping while still having fun purchasing from these virtual stores that are set up in residential communities, offices, parks, and even on the Great Wall.

The world’s largest retailer, Walmart owns a 51.3 per cent stake in Yihaodian.

The Yihaodian Virtual Store App can now be downloaded free in the Apple App store.

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