The shopping of the future: 9 unmanned stores

Unmanned stores utilize technology instead of personnel, and mobile wallets instead of a cash register

The shopping of the future: 9 unmanned stores. Source: shutterstock.com

Online shopping is no longer the most modern way to buy or sell something. Retailers try to outdo each other, competing for customers and inventing more and more different retail formats that will meet the demands of today’s sophisticated user.

PaySpace Magazine Global has made a list of stores that offer a whole new shopping experience for their customers.

F5 Future Store

F5 Future Store is a Chinese cashier-free convenience store located in Guangzhou. It was founded in 2014, and it slightly differs from other unmanned stores. This smart shop doesn’t keep any products inside for clients to pick up. On the contrary, customers place orders and pay for purchases through their smartphones (in-store terminal is also available). Once the payment confirmed/approved, the products are dispensed through the special machines. This is an excellent example of a combination of machine automation and artificial algorithms.

Moreover, clients can also order hot/fresh food and drinks. These products are also prepared by machines “behind the scenes”. Actually, it’s cool to know that you can walk into your favorite café or coffee store any time you want (even in the middle of the night), order your favorite drink, and it will not take more than a couple of minutes, since all the process is automated, while there is a high chance you’ll not face the queue there. What’s more, the shop is endowed with a self-cleaning feature, so it doesn’t require even janitors, and clients can place an order in advance for pick-up.

TakeGo

Chinese Hangzhou-based Wahaha Group, which is one of China’s largest food and beverage manufacturers, has launched TakeGo, described as a next-generation, high-tech vending machine.

It works as follows: a client chooses an item, and it is automatically placed into a digital shopping cart. In case a customer changed their minds, an item will be removed and returned to the shelf. Clients are billed automatically through Alipay on their way out of the store.

The store is the result of a partnership between Hangzhou Wahaha Group and DeepBlue Technology. What’s more, they plan to open 100,000 similar cashier-free shops across China in the nearest future.

This store is endowed with a hand scanner that recognizes customers’ palm prints and allows them to enter. Consequently, it charges clients for items they desire to purchase.

Amazon Go

On 25th February 2020, Amazon opened its first full-fledged cashier-free store in Seattle. This store offers more than 5,000 different products. Namely, Amazon’s grocery store includes fruits, household goods, packaged seafood, alcohol, etc.

This shop is endowed with sensors, cameras, and computer vision, eliminating the need for cashiers. Nonetheless, a few staff members still work in the store, and they stock shelves and answer clients’ questions. Moreover, it is possible for clients to pay for products by scanning a QR code from their Amazon mobile app.

Amazon desired to open such a full-fledged unmanned grocery store since 2017, but every time it was about to launch the store, the company faced some issues related to the complicated technology. Finally, in 2020, the company found the way to handle all tech-related problems.

Moby Mart

Wheelys launched a 24-hour store run entirely by technology in 2017 in Shanghai. In addition to a self-service system, the retail outlet on wheels offers goods in a place convenient to a customer. The unmanned kiosk is able to move down the street autonomously using AI and computer vision.

This store looks like a bus with big windows. You must scan a QR code (which is affixed to a door). A virtual holographic assistant navigates a customer.

If a buyer decided to buy an item they must scan it. The system takes the money directly from a customer’s credit or debit card linked to a mobile wallet.

BingoBox

Chinese startup Bingobox launched a non-mobile unmanned store.

Customers who want to enter the store must scan the QR code (located at the door) through a WeChat (it’s obligatory to have a WeChat account).

The purchasing system is quite similar to those of the previous stores. Customers scan items and pay for them with WeChat or AliPay.

The special system also monitors whether customers have taken items they didn’t pay for.

Tmall

China is one of the most highly developed countries, and not only startups can launch groundbreaking stores here. In August 2017, Alibaba Group announced the launching of a huge car vending machine under the Tmall brand.

A customer can choose the model they like and place an order through their smartphone. The payment system will depend on the customer’s rating in the Sesame Credit system. People get points on the basis of their activity. A user who has accumulated more than 750 points can make the first contribution of 10%. The remainder can be paid by monthly payments with Alipay.

The vending machine looks like a multi-story building.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and huge carmaker Ford joined forces to open the car vending machine which was launched it on 26 March 2018 in China’s southern city Guangzhou.

Auchan Minute

Famous retailer Auchan is going to join the Chinese high-tech march, and open a network of unmanned shops called Auchan Minute.

The purchasing system is going to be quite standard (for this kind of store): a customer will have to scan the special QR code to enter the shop then scan their items. The goods will be added to the mobile app’s virtual shopping cart. The customer checks his shopping list and then pays for items online.

JD.com

Chinese second-largest online retailer JD.com launched an unmanned store in Yantai city (Shandong province) on 30 December 2017. This e-commerce company uses facial recognition and cloud computing technologies to improve the speed and precision of the payment process.

JD.com has been running a beta version of the store for employees at its Beijing headquarters since October, but the Yantai opening marks the first commercial version.

Special cameras in the ceiling can recognize clients gestures. Moreover, it’s possible to make heat maps to track the flow of customers and detect their preferences.

The facial recognition system will make it possible to show customers personal adverts and discount lists, based on customers’ habits and demographic characteristics.

The company has also announced its plans to launch a self-driving car system for package delivery. The driverless vehicles are intended to move on predetermined routes.

Farmhouse Market

This shop was opened in 2016, which can be considered as ancient times in terms of tech advancement. Farmhouse Market is an unstaffed 24-hour self-checkout store in the rural Minnesota town of New Prague (the US). The owners of the store noticed that customers liked to shop at odd hours, when closest convenience stores are inaccessible; the same rule applies to local organic food stores. That’s how Farmhouse Market came into the world.

Farmhouse is a high-tech community store. However, it requires a membership keycard, which is not free. Customers, who want to be members, have to pay $100 annually for registration and maintaining a keycard that gives them round-the-clock access. Non-members can use the shop only at certain hours. Cameras show when clients are coming in and what they are purchasing. Nonetheless, it’s more about offering a curated assortment and understanding shoppers’ needs than keeping an eye open for shoplifting.

Moreover, now, you can also eat and sleep at Farmhouse Market. According to the official site, Farmhouse offers now a 2-bedroom inn right above the market. Most recently, the owners of the store have added a second bedroom.


In general, all these unmanned shopping concepts are alike – there is no checkout or sales consultant, the purchasing process takes place via technology and self-service. American Nordstrom has crafted an entirely new concept. The company presented a retail outlet called Nordstrom Local in early October in a new format — there are no items. But, the store does offer customers personal stylists, tailoring services, and manicure appointments. Nordstrom Local will also serve wine, beer, espresso drinks, and cold-pressed juices.

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