Monday, August 4, 2014

News: Vitalife's virtual expansion

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Rotherham-based health specialist, Vitalife, is harnessing new technologies to boost online sales by turning billboards into prime retail space.

Based at RiDO's Fusion @ Magna business centre at Templeborough, the enterprise started life in 2010 in the niche industry of specialist teas. It has gone on to launch a new line of organic coconut oil and develop a range of vitamins and minerals that feature no artificial or highly processed bulking agents or fillers.

The growing brand opened a physical store in Rotherham town centre earlier this year following several years operating purely online and via resellers as a successful health food brand and retailer. Now it is though to be the first retailer in the UK to use Near Field Communication (NFC) and Quick Response (QR) Codes to turn advertising space into shelves full of its products.

Supermarket giant Tesco trialled a similar concept in South Korea, where busy commuters could order their groceries using just QR technology whilst waiting for the train, to have them delivered at their home the same evening. As a result, Tesco's South Korean sales rose by 130% in just three months.

Vitalife Health's projections for sales growth from their virtual stores are a little more reserved than Tesco's, given the level of smartphone uptake in the UK is not as high as South Korea, and the average UK consumer is yet to become properly familiarised with QR and NFC technology, but they still have high hopes for the concept.

Gavin Edley, CEO at Vitalife, said: "We'll be trialling the concept initially in Sheffield, Leeds, and Manchester Piccadilly train stations towards the end of August, and the stores will be here for a minimum of eight weeks. We're really excited to see the results from these stores, and then we'll look towards rolling the concept out Nationwide later in 2014, targeting other commuting environments like airports and bus stops too."

Customers wanting to use the new stores will have to own an NFC enabled smartphone device, or have a QR code app installed in order to "tap" or "scan" products from Vitalife's shelves into their online baskets.

The concept was developed by Vitalife in partnership with QR and NFC specialist Linktagger, after they realised the limitations and financial hurdles involved in opening traditional "bricks and mortar" stores on the high street.

"We are a small company, with limited funding and big ambitions, so we have to be smart about the way we try to grow and develop" said Edley. "So we thought, how can we compete with the big players in the health product retail market without millions of pounds to throw at opening new stores? The answer is to be smarter about approaching our customers, and connect with them in new, innovative, and more cost-effective ways – with virtual stores being one of these approaches."

Vitalife Health website

Images: Vitalife

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