Traditional retailers and online shops have been trying to find a way to combine the best of both worlds.
Courier SF Express has stolen a march on the competition and could be the first to come up with a working model.
In the past week, it has opened 518 Heike convenience stores in 70 cities across the country. These are nothing like the kind of traditional shops consumers would expect.
If you’re looking for snacks, drinks or magazines, you won’t find them there. Instead, you’ll see a wall filled with pictures of various products complete with QR codes.
Customers can scan the codes on their mobile device and get information about the products or browse them on giant touch-screen monitors in the store.
From shoes to clothes, fresh food to watches, customers can choose what they like and then pay at the cashier or through their smartphones. SF Express will then deliver the goods.
One caveat about online shopping: customers don’t see or touch the real thing, so those used to inspecting the merchandise are not going to find the service very friendly. In addition, getting a refund can be a hassle.
This is where Heike can make a difference.
Let’s say a customer bought a pair of sandals online. She can come and do the fitting in one of the Heike outlets. If the size or style doesn’t fit, she can simply cancel the order and get a refund instantly.
For certain products, customers can pre-order them without pre-payment. SF Express will bear all transport costs, whether or not the customer finally decides to buy.
Heike doesn’t run up inventory, saving the company a lot of money.
Guo Zengli, president of the retail research firm Mall China Information Center, told Yicai.com that he used to think all this was a little too gimmicky.
He changed his mind after seeing what Heike has done to revolutionize the traditional retailing concept.
Heike also doubles as a staging area for courier placement and delivery. And who would have thought it handles airline bookings?
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