Hi-tech times as travel, retail and augmented reality hit airports after Chinese success storyNewsBy Karthick Prabu | May 9, 2013Share This article was originally published on The retail and travel industries have plenty of overlap, and now travelers at Frankfurt Airport can buy duty free by scanning QR codes of products displayed (like an ad) on a wall.Heinemann Duty Free has unveiled a QR code wall at the German airport, allowing passengers to point their smartphones at a product's QR code, add it to a virtual shopping cart and choose to collect the products at the collection point 15 minutes later.The giant virtual shopping billboard displays some 60 different perfumes, cosmetic items, spirits and confectionery products.Markus Ettlin, head of central marketing at Gebr Heinemann, says the six-month trial is aimed at "finding out how the new virtual shop is used and which nationalities it appeals to most" as well as trying make the duty free shopping process easier for passengers.While this concept is relatively new in Germany, grocery retailer Tesco had played around with the concept in South Korea since 2011.Here is the Tesco Homeplus virtual subway store in South Korea:In August 2012, Tesco launched a similar experience in London's Gatwick Airport for a limited time period.The concept could be extended to buying travel products as well, of course. Companies could display car rental services and hotel advertisements (at an airport) in a similar way for travelers to secure services at their final destination.The retail sector is trying to change the way consumers buy products, shifting from traditional brick and mortar stores to ultra hi-tech digital services.One organisation in China appears to doing very well with the concept, unveiling a string of "invisible stores" throughout the country, meaning customer no longer need to visit a physical store at all, or indeed browse around a website.Sounds crazy, right?In October 2012, Chinese ecommerce player Yihaodian (means "Number One" in English) opened 1,000 virtual stores overnight in Shanghai.The virtual stores each measure 40 x 40 metres and were placed in business complexes and parking lots. Yihaodian even opened a facility right in front of its competitor, Carrefour.Users locate a store by their mobile devices and simply walk around the virtual facility and select products. The goods are delivered - similar to normal online shopping services - to a home or business address at a pre-arranged time.Yihaodian increased its revenue by 17% in three months and now has 1,000 of the stores throughout China.Here is a clip:Now, the question is this: can the concept be extended to travel industry? We think yes. One such example would be to create invisible shopping stores within hotels.But what are other practical use cases you can think of in travel industry?NB:Duty free wall image via Airport-World.