New service to boost mobile shopping in China

Updated: 2011-10-21 09:09


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BEIJING -- Scan a product's barcode and your mobile phone will immediately present you with a website where you can order the product, with no need to type in the name or search.

It may sound futuristic, but the technology is already in place in three major Chinese cities, with commuters now able to order snacks and daily commodities with a special application installed on their mobile phones., an online shopping company that offers the service, has posted pictures of its products in 25 subway stations and set up nearly 300 billboards in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to Liang Yan, an employee in the company's marketing department.

"The virtual store targets urban white-collars who don't have much time to shop in traditional supermarkets," Liang said. "Most importantly, they are savvy smartphone users."

About 16.81 million smart phones were sold in China in the second quarter of the year, according to Analysys International, a Beijing-based IT consulting firm.

"With the increasing number of mobile phone subscribers, mobile e-commence can expect more market demand and see positive development prospects," said Zhang Ning, director of Peking University's e-commerce and "Internet of Things" research center.

The total value of online retail sales in China reached 515.1 billion yuan ($80.7 billion) in 2010, three percent of the total volume of retail sales and nearly doubling that of 2009, according to a report released by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last month.

Despite analysts' bright forecasts for the future of virtual stores, many customers have been reluctant to try Yihaodian's new service and few said they would bother downloading a special app to purchase the company's products.

"China still has a long way to go in developing the technology needed to ensure payment security and protect consumers' interests," Zhang added.

Other countries have seen success with their own mobile phone shopping sites. The Cannes Lions 2011 Media Lions winner "Homeplus Subway Virtual Store" introduced mobile phone retail to Korean customers.

The virtual store identified itself as the first to provide such a service to customers on the Chinese mainland. Its mobile app is currently available in Chinese for the iOS and Android operating systems.