Innovations in Asia  

As well as being at the forefront of expanding economies, Asia has long been respected as a hub for innovative business ideas. A lot of this is down to Asian customers being more receptive to ideas that are more innovative, and perhaps ‘quirkier' than those their conservative western counterparts would willingly take on-board.
Take the concept of the vending machine. Sure, in the UK they are fairly ubiquitous. You'll find one at your local gymnasium dispensing cool drinks. There'll be one at the railway station offering a range of chocolate bars or crisps. But they are not exactly the type of invention to inspire their customers with any sense of reverence. This is not the case in the Far East. In Singapore, vending machines can dispense a whole lot more than packets of crisps or fairly insipid coffee. You'll be able to order a carton of mashed potato smothered in piping hot, delicious gravy.
Korea is another burgeoning Asian economic power that treats its retailers with due respect. The Emart supermarket here has built-in three-dimensional QR (machine-readable) codes that will only work when the sun has arrived at a certain point overhead. The idea behind this simple but devilishly effective marketing ploy has been to ensure that sales are inspired at certain times of the day – previously it had been noted that sales tended to slump over lunch time.
These QR codes are one noticeable aspect of how innovation is being harnessed in Far Eastern markets. Mobile phones are another important tool. The technology is also filtering over to the west, with the Canadian grocery firm Sobey's using QR codes to provide information on products, such as point of origin. This helps customers in many ways – by hovering over items with their phones they can be taken to web pages with further data. This can also allow interactivity, or transactions to take place.
There are other incentives being offered to customers that make their shopping experience as pleasant as possible. In Sweden, the retailer ICA are allow about field communication. Shoppers buying their lunch at ICA can adopt contactless payment systems. Anyone taking regular advantage of this is rewarded with a free lunch.
Technology is increasingly being used in-store for the benefit of both retailers and customers. In Thailand, Tesco are growing lettuces in water, making for fresher food, and eye-catching displays. This is so much more appealing than the sight of rows of uninteresting green vegetables lined up on a supermarket shelf, slowly wilting beneath the bright lights.
Another revolutionary idea likely to pave the way for future Asian shopping experiences is ‘smart trolleys'. These will scan products the moment they are placed inside, allowing customers to keep a close eye on their goods and budget accordingly, as well as flagging up the fact they are still within the amount they originally wished to spend – so it is too early to stop!

 

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