Tesco has unveiled new interactive digital billboards in the departure lounge at Gatwick Airport that allow consumers to order groceries to be delivered to them when they return from holiday.

Using Tesco’s iPhone and Android smartphone apps holidaymakers can add products to their shopping basket by scanning the barcodes displayed under the items on the adverts.

Sliding screens on each ‘fridge’ can be scrolled by hand allowing customers to browse and select around 80 of Tesco’s most popular products.

Deliveries can then be scheduled for up to three weeks in advance to coincide with the user’s return home.

The use of interactive billboards in the UK follows a successful trial in South Korea’s subway. Commuters were able to purchase items from a virtual shopping aisle by scanning QR codes with their smartphone.

Since launching last year more than 55,000 transactions have been made using the display, helping Tesco to become South Korea’s number one online grocery retailer.

Tesco’s internet retailing director Ken Towle said the displays in Gatwick’s North Terminal were aimed at providing a convenient and simple shopping experience for its customers.

“E-commerce is increasingly important for our multichannel offering and this is about responding to the wider use of smartphones among our customers.”

16% of Tesco’s sales currently involve smartphones at some stage of the purchase journey while 8% come exclusively from mobile.

Towle said that the two-week trial is an experiment to see how customers react and he has an open mind as to what would constitute a success.

“As a business we plan to try out lots of new things to work out which are the good ideas and which ones customers want to use. We want to try and improve consumer access to Tesco using mobile.”

Tesco says that the virtual store is a first for the UK, but we have seen similar examples from both John Lewis and eBay.

In November last year John Lewis created a virtual store in a Waitrose shop window in Brighton to promote its Christmas range, while eBay opened a pop-up shop near London’s Oxford Street that enabled consumers to buy products by scanning QR codes using their smartphones.

However both of those examples sold consumer goods and electronics rather than groceries.

Having trialled the display I can vouch for the fact that it is simple to use and recognises the barcodes almost instantly.

But personally I am dubious as to whether putting the display in an airport is necessarily going to drive a huge amount of sales.

In the few hours before I go on holiday the last thing I am thinking about is my shopping list for when I return home, but then Tesco says the trial is primarily aimed at busy parents who need to plan ahead.

Even so, it is likely that one of the main motivations behind the trial is to raise awareness of Tesco’s mobile apps and encourage people to download them while they’re looking for something to do in the hours before their flight.

To scan the barcodes you must first create a Tesco shopping account, so at the very least the retailer should gain a decent amount of consumer data during the trial.