Imagine all of your grocery shopping can be done while waiting for the train or bus on your way to work. It would save you the long trips to the supermarket and waiting in queues at the checkout. Added to that, if you order before 13:00, it will be delivered for when you get home that evening.

This is the kind of supermarket experience Tesco wanted for busy South Korean customers at its HomePlus chain of stores.

The premise is simple, buy billboard space in the busy subway stations and turn them into rows of brightly lit supermarket shelves. Add to the shelves hundreds of pictures of food and drink. Then using the technology of QR-codes, allow customers to buy the products on display using an app on their smartphone.

The BBC reported an interview with “a man in his 60s” named Mr Bae. Mr Bae doesn’t own a smartphone so isn’t too impressed with the ‘advert’, but thinks it’s a good idea for younger Koreans.

The virtual subway store has paved the way for Tesco’s HomePlus to become the number 1 supermarket in South Korea, jumping over long-time leader E-Mart. This is all without opening any new stores, which indicates that these virtual subway stores are working.

If you’re intrigued to see just how the virtual stores look, check out the embedded video below:

Despite the success of these virtual subway stores, Kwon Ki-Duk at the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul, says that South Koreans are not yet ready to abandon today’s supermarkets. So the question remains: will Tesco test this idea in other countries, such as Britain, or is it something that could only work in the technology conscious South Korea?

What do you think?