November 17, 2011, 4:39 PM

eBay brings its online marketplace to a London storefront

Consumers will use smartphones and 2-D bar codes to purchase products.

Lead Photo

A new eBay Inc. pop-up store in the United Kingdom will enable shoppers with mobile devices to browse and buy holiday gifts in a physical location.

The “eBay Christmas Boutique” marks the latest attempt by the online marketplace to put its wares before consumers on the street while also promoting its mobile commerce effort. The store also represents the latest push by e-commerce operators to make digital and bricks-and-mortar retailing even closer siblings than they already are.

EBay will locate the store on 34 Dean St. in London’s West End, and will keep it open between Dec. 1 and Dec. 5, with operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. EBay selected those days because they coincide with what it calls the busiest online shopping weekend of the year.

The shopping experience at the store relies on QR codes, which are 2-D bar codes, the squiggles-within-a-square displays that are increasingly appearing in magazines and on billboards. Consumers with the proper app on their smartphones take a picture of the codes and then are automatically linked to the relevant mobile content. In this case, shoppers can use an eBay app to capture codes from some 200 items on display in the store, and then complete purchases on the mobile devices. The items come from eBay retailers and top sellers, an eBay spokeswoman says.

“If consumers don’t have a smartphone, we have loan handsets from HTC, which shoppers can use to trial the process,” she says. “But they won’t be able to buy unless they log in to their own eBay accounts.”

Last month, eBay opened a similar storefront in New York City where consumers with mobile devices and using QR codes could buy products. The shop’s windows were filled with merchandise and wish lists from various celebrities.

While eBay tries to impress British mobile shoppers through a physical storefront, retail chain Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hopes to boost the profile of its retail site, and win holiday dollars, with e-commerce stores located in two Southern California malls. Shoppers can enter the stores, which are essentially Internet hubs, to view product displays and demonstration copies of popular gift items, and then use the computers there to order items, with clerks standing by to offer assistance.

This fall, Google Inc. launched a physical store in London where consumers can inspect and buy Chromebook computers featuring Google software.

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