June 14, 2012, 4:27 PM

Shopping takes to the streets

Procter & Gamble  lets consumers scan codes with smartphones to buy at Walmart.com.

Lead Photo

The P&G truck that enables consumers to order goods with their smartphones.

Procter & Gamble is taking its products mobile in more ways the one. The consumer packaged goods manufacturer has slapped QR or quick response codes on a truck tooling around New York and on bus shelters in Chicago that consumers can scan with their smartphones to order goods from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

A QR code is a form of two-dimensional bar code. It appears typically as a black-and-white square with a pattern of tiny black-and-white squares within. Smartphone apps scan these codes by using the phone’s built-in camera.

Shoppers who scan the codes are directed to the mobile site of Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, where they can buy items such as Tide and Pampers diapers. The landing pages features nine limited-edition P&G Olympic-themed SKUs, and shoppers can order additional items that are available from P&G at Walmart.com. The campaign, which runs through June, displays QR codes on 12 bus shelters in downtown Chicago and on a truck which will make stops at popular New York landmarks such as Union Square Park and the Fashion District, a P&G spokesman says. The pilot also offers free shipping for orders over $45.

The truck is also giving samples of limited-edition P&G products and flyers with QR codes consumers can take with them if they want to test out the mobile shopping technology later.  

“The urban shopper is important to both Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart, especially in the consumables categories,” the P&G spokesman says. "People have yet to really adapt to buying consumables online. We think having free delivery, and getting this message out to urban shoppers is a great first start."

Other companies have tested similar QR code programs in big cities—both in the U.S. and abroad.

Last month Peapod launched a similar trial in Chicago, placing a virtual grocery store in Chicago’s subway.

Ads wrapped tunnel walls with images of grocery shelves stocked with popular products and household staples from brands like Coca-Cola, Barilla, Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark, and commuters could use their mobile devices to scan a QR code to download a free PeapodMobile app. Once they had the app, they could start shopping by scanning the bar codes of the products featured in the ads. Commuters could also get orders started on the platform, manage shopping lists and schedule deliveries—for the next day or several days or weeks in advance—during their train rides.

Peapod’s virtual store ads included products that typically fill weekly shopping baskets for busy households. The PeapodMobile app gives customers access to more than 12,000 products.

Peapod also launched a pilot in February on 15 commuter rail platforms throughout Philadelphia. During that 12-week campaign, commuters took advantage of the onsite grocery scanning option, diversifying their selections and boosting their mobile order size, Peapod says. 90% of consumers who scanned in the Philadelphia campaign returned to Peapod to shop and order again, it adds.

U.K.-based chain Tesco Stores, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Europe, got into the bar code scanning game last year,  plastering the walls of subways stops in South Korea with images of grocery shelves, complete with bar codes that consumers could scan to complete purchases.

Last year, Peapod, owned by Dutch supermarket company Royal Ahold, said that it expected half of its orders to come through mobile devices within three years. Peapod has apps for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPadas well as for smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Soon after building its iPad app, Peapod said it found that iPad users spend more, on average, than the typical Peapod ticket of $150.

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