by Pei-Syuan Lai
The emergence of unmanned stores has attracted the attention of the global retail industry. Companies over the world have unveiled services that are smarter and more automated. The following are examples of unmanned stores in the U.S., China, and Taiwan.
United States – Amazon GO
Launched by the US e-commerce company- Amazon, Amazon GO features shopping without lining up for payment, promoting a Grab-and-Go experience. The first store opened to employees in the Amazon head office in 2016, and the one to the public in Seattle in 2018.
This “Grab-and-Go technology” makes use of cloud computing, machine learning, sensors, etc. Consumers must first sign up for an Amazon account and scan the QR Code at the entrance for the system to confirm registered identity before entering the store. There are cameras and infrared sensors tracking consumer’s every move.
The entire shopping process will be recorded by the mobile app on consumers’ phone. Consumers can just grab and go, while the system will complete the checkout and send the receipt to the consumer’s Amazon account, and there is no need to wait in line.
There have been unmanned stores in China as early as in 2014, but the one that really attracted everyone’s attention was the self-service retail “flash mob” store- Taocafe, launched by Alibaba in 2017.
The store adopts technologies including sensors, machine vision, RFID system in shipment tracking, etc. To go into the store, consumer have to sign up an Alipay account and scan the QR Code on the Taobao mobile app at store entrance.
The difference between Amazon GO and Taocafe is that there are two checkout gates at Taocafe. One will open when consumers are leaving the store, and the other recognizes the products purchased by the consumer. The system will checkout the products through facial recognition.
Taiwan’s retail company, President Chain Store Corp., launched its first unmanned store- X-STORE. The store first opened to company employees in 2018, and to the public in June of the same year. The second X-STORE was opened in July. Consumers can visit the store after signing up for OPENPOINT VIP membership and shop by using an icash 2.0 card as well as facial recognition.
The store adopts technologies including facial identification, hot spot analysis, IOT monitoring equipment, self-service POS systems, and electronic labels that update information of product price when there is a sale.
The most innovative device in the store is the automatic refrigerator that opens door when someone approaches it. This design saves about 50% of the electricity compared to a regular store. Microwave ovens will automatically heat up foods when the bar code is scanned.
The emergence of unmanned stores shows that the new retail industry is constantly changing with the advancement of technology and people’s consumption patterns. The future of businesses and retail industry is unpredictable, and the world will be watching.