Will we soon be a virtual society?

Virtual living is on its way and it seems there’s little we can do halt its progress. Yesterday saw the launch of Woolworths virtual grocery wall in Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station. The wall is decorated with images of 120 of Woolworths key grocery items and all commuters have to do is wave their smartphone in front of the items they need and they’re popped into a virtual shopping basket, paid for and delivered to home.

Woolworths aren’t the first retailer to test the waters of virtual shopping in Australia. Fashion retailers have also implemented virtual shopping window displays where you simply scan and have the items delivered. Is this retails way at hitting back at online. Are our lives so busy that we can no longer spend time queuing in a shop to buy a new dress?

Personally, I’m all for gadgets and gizmos, which make life easier, but does a wall of virtual groceries push the boundaries of what is reasonable? I think there’s something quite quirky about walking past a wall in the train station, doing my grocery shopping as I go. However, in a society where we are constantly plugged into some kind of device, I worry that this is the beginning of the end of social interaction. With companies looking at ways to cut costs and save money, is it only a matter of time before our high streets become faceless walls with pictures of the latest consumer goods?

Some will argue that online shopping is nothing new in Australia, but according to last year’s productivity commission, online grocery shopping only claims a 1 per cent share of the grocery market. As people move towards accessing internet on the go, then virtual grocery walls will be the way that retailers encourage more people to embrace online shopping.

But are we becoming too dependent on online solutions for everyday activities? Is going to the grocery store really too much of a challenge that we would rather just scan and go? And lastly, for those on a budget, is the lure of a shiny wall, with colourful pictures just too much of a temptation?

Written by Debbie McTaggart



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