South Korean retail chain E-Mart is using flying Wi-Fi balloons as a marketing tool to convert consumers to the 'drive to store' model.

South Korean retail chain E-Mart has launched a concept it calls Flying store. Despite the name however, they are not exactly flying stores, but E-Mart branded delivery truck-shaped balloons installed with Wi-Fi routers. In other words they are itinerant Wi-Fi terminals designed to attract the curiosity of passers-by, who then only have to connect – free of charge – to the Wi-Fi signal in order to do some shopping. Other retailers are now emulating this marketing strategy to engage with people at locations outside the store. UK-based retailer Tesco has come up with a virtual shopping concept in South Korea, which enables people to shop with their smartphones in locations such as subway stations by snapping a photo of the QR code associated with a picture of the product displayed on the subway wall. The purchased goods are then delivered to the customer’s home.

A direct impact on sales

When E-Mart connects potential customers to its floating Wi-Fi terminals – the balloons fly around at stations, shopping malls and other public places – this also gives the company an opportunity to provide them with information on its stores and product range. With 50,000 downloads of the E-Mart application in the first month, this campaign had a definite direct impact on sales. The balloons not only encourage passers-by to download the mobile app. They also encourage people to go and make purchases by offering coupons for price reductions on certain items. In-store sales rose by 9.5% in the first year after rolling out the ‘Flying stores’, while online sales enjoyed 157% growth.

Multiple strategy suits city lifestyles

This marketing technique has worked extremely well in Seoul, largely because South Korean workers are reputed to work very long hours and so have less free time. Working with South Korean marketing solutions company Cheil Worldwide, the aim of both brands has been to encourage and make it easy for people to shop while on-the-go. The E-Mart campaign encourages the ‘drive to store’ approach, coupled with a dual offline/online strategy. The balloons entice some consumers to the stores to use their coupons offline, while other customers are motivated to go on to the website or use the mobile app to make online purchases.

By Lucie Frontière