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Argos is the latest retailer to open a QR code pop-up shop in the run-up to Christmas.

In a move similar to the eBay store near Oxford Street and John Lewis' virtual shop window in Brighton, customers will be able to scan the code of a selected item on their smartphone and will then be sent to Argos’ online checkout.

There will be 75 Christmas gift ideas on display at Paddington today and Friday, and then in Waterloo on Wednesday and Thursday.

Argos' head of brand development Siobhan Fitzpatrick said the retailer wanted to make Christmas shopping easy “in an active and engaging way.”

But despite its claim to be a unique pop-up gift shop, this is an idea that consumers will soon become tired of - and there has been little evidence of success in driving sales.

In fact, anecdotal evidence from John Lewis’ QR experiment in Brighton suggests that the codes do very little to attract customers.

To gauge the popularity of the display, which went live on 23 November this year, digital agency Leapfrogg stationed staff in a coffee shop opposite the window for an hour each day, from Monday to Friday the week after launch.

Obviously this methodology isn't exactly robust, but during the five hour-long periods, which were staggered at different times of day, just 38 people stopped to look at the window display - and only two scanned a code with a smartphone.

Speaking two weeks after the virtual shop window opened, Lloyd Page, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, said it formed part of a wider campaign to raise awareness about JohnLewis.com’s ‘click and collect’ service that has launched across 94 Waitrose shops. 

It’s early days, but since launch we’ve seen a week-on-week increase of 54% in click and collect sales to Waitrose Brighton."

Page said it was John Lewis’ response to changing customer shopping behaviour.

We want to ensure that customers can shop with John Lewis using the channel which suits them best, whether that’s in our shops, on the web, or through our mobile site. QR codes, although still a relatively new technology, are part of that multi-channel mix."

John Lewis’ window display ticks all the boxes for QR code best practice; it's an attractive display in a location where users should have 3G access – and most importantly users are directed to a site optimised for mobile use.

Though John Lewis saw an increase in use of the service it was trying to promote, it would not say how many people actually scanned the QR codes. It may have been that a normal window display would have had the same impact, and it's likely that other forms of promotion had an effect on uptake.

It will be interesting to see the final statistics from John Lewis' experiment, which will run until the end of December. But if consumers scan the codes at a rate of only 2 people every 5 hours, it will hardly have been a success. Even if the anecdotal evidence is way off-base, and perhaps 10 people scan the codes even five hours, simply displaying a link to the click and collect webpage might have been more effective.

We discussed the most innovative uses of QR codes here back in July (including Tesco in Korea below) and with numerous examples springing up almost daily, it would appear that the technology is here to stay for the immediate future.

However pop-up shops seem to be little more than PR stunts, as how many consumers will make the effort to go on a Christmas shopping trip to London then simply buy their gifts from Argos on the platform?

Or is Argos hoping that tired commuters will be queuing up to browse a shop on a busy platform on their way home from work?

Surely the only motivation is as to get people talking, which isn't neccessarily bad thing, but while it works in terms of press coverage there's serious doubt about translating this into sales.

David Moth

Published 13 December, 2011 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1688 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Mark Thompson, MD at Printdesigns Limited

It's a radically different way of shopping...truly bizarre!

I guess the fact that the products are physically on display means this format bridges the gap between online and in-store.

almost 5 years ago

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