Woolworths has launched a revolutionary concept in Australia – a shop with no products. Instead of reaching into the shelves and grabbing the product you want you simply scan the bar-code and the product is delivered to your home.

That’s got to be akin to having a pub with no beer, surely?  Perhaps not.  The idea is simple, using the Woolworths app (iPhone and Android) you have for a while been able to scan bar codes and have the app search the Woolies database for price and more information before adding that product to your own shopping list. It would then be sorted by the product placement in aisles at your local Woolies store so you get led to the right aisles and get your shopping done sooner.

An upgrade to the App last week meant you can not only create a shopping list for your local store, you can now view that shopping list and simply click ‘buy online’, bypassing the whole online shopping website and literally shopping directly from the app.

Point, Scan, Shop

To demonstrate this, Woolworths has setup a ‘Virtual Supermarket’ at Town Hall in Sydney, with another being opened in Melbourne today as well as bus shelters in other areas.  These ‘Virtual Supermarkets’ are nothing more than giant billboard advertising placed at eye level – primarily used to promote both Woolworths and its shopping app – but perhaps something of an insight into the future?

This is not an original concept, UK Giant TESCO created subway virtual stores in South Korea under their local brand HomePlus to great fanfare at the Cannes advertising awards as shown in this clip:

Woolworths are not claiming to be the first in the world, but they are innovating here in the Australian market – the big question is, would you shop this way?

It’s unlikely we’ll see an actual virtual store open up where photos are all that we can see. Instead the idea of using spaces we see and come close to regularly, like at train stations or bus stops to promote individual or ranges of products that can be ‘scanned’ and easily added to our shopping list has some genuine merit. While it’s easy to just get on the App and start to shop, how will Woolworths sell you on products you didn’t know you needed.

These posters will do just that.