Most e-tailers let you act like a couch potato, browsing for your purchases online without ever leaving your living room. A Chinese supermarket chain has a different idea, however, and plans to open 1,000 virtual supermarkets where you will "browse" an otherwise empty physical store, choosing items on your phone.
Yihaodian is kind of similar to Fresh Direct in the United States, providing direct home delivery of groceries and and other supermarket items.
Each 13,000-square-foot Unlimited Yihaodian store will be set up for augmented reality browsing, letting you use your smartphone to see the items on offer. When you decide to buy something, it gets added to your virtual shopping basket and delivered to your home later.
While I understand the social and health benefits of getting out of the house and going places, this plan seems kind of nutty on several levels. Online shopping can be greener because you don't have everyone driving to a virtual store, but with this plan you'll need to go to the store anyway. Also food, especially produce and other fresh items, are things that I normally want to select in person. With virtual shopping you have to take whatever bruised piece of fruit they pick for you, although admittedly, this problem doesn't seem to have hurt Fresh Direct.
A couple of months ago Walmart did a little virtual shopping of its own, and purchased a majority share in Yihaodian. I wonder if we'll be getting some empty Walmart Supercenters before too long?