The concept of shopping with smartphones in a physical environment is being demonstrated in Moscow, at the Vystavochnaya metro station in Moscow City.
Inspired by examples like TESCO-Homeplus in South Korea, which debuted in 2011, the Moscow version is currently featuring the Russian branch of Germany-based Media Markt, part of the giant METRO retail group.
The concept is simple: billboards display images of products and associated QR codes, which shoppers scan with their smartphones. The scanned URLs open up the product detail page in the retailer’s web shop.
Although it’s an interesting idea, it’s unlikely to be commercially relevant for a company like Media Markt. The value is mainly in its public relations impact. While electronics/technology is the single biggest category for online shopping in Russia (accounting for about 44% of total online retail sales in 2012), such products are generally not bought on impulse or habitually. Shoppers tend to take time to research their purchases, which is more easily done on a desktop or laptop computer.
Next up after Media Markt is Goodwin Project, a Russian start-up which will offer a broader array of product categories aggregated from different, independent, e-shops, and which will operate like a mobile shopping mall, receiving commissions on the sales it generates. The success of this channel will be tied to the types of products and merchants which the Goodwin Project platform can attract.
Such demonstration projects show that Russia can keep pace with other developed nations, but this is hardly a cutting-edge technology. While it could prove commercially successful by providing visibility to stores, brands, and products and facilitating mobile shopping, it does not address the principal frictions impeding the growth Russian e-commerce: logistics and payments.