Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

By Allison Bew, August 26, 2017

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In the parking lot of Yangpu’s Auchan Shopping Center sits a new convenience store called BingoBox, and unlike your 7-Elevens, Family Marts and Lawsons, it operates without any human staff. 

A trend that is spreading throughout China, another automated 24-hour convenience store called Moby also made its debut in Shanghai earlier this year. 

Moby Mart

The birthmother of this innovative concept is Wheelys, the same Swedish company that introduced the infamous traveling bike cafes. Un-manned convenience store concepts have also popped up in countries like the US and Japan over the years, and e-commerce giant Amazon has introduced Amazon Go stores with a similar concept of using technology to keep track of products, identify the consumer, and allow a human-free shopping experience.  

Moby and BingoBox are not the only human-free stores in China. Another robotic convenience store in Guangzhou operates like BingoBox, relying on smartphone technology and a special terminal to allow the consumer to make purchases. 

READ MORE: Shenzhen's First Staff-Less Shop Claims Zero Theft in 4 Months

While the idea is innovative and seems to be doing well globally, BingoBox still has some kinks to work through. Only one month after its grand opening, it was forced to shut down due to overheating. Fortunately, we were able to test out the futuristic convenience store before complications caused its premature and temporary closure.

To enter BingoBox, one must use WeChat to scan a QR code and punch in a verification code. 

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

Once inside the store, you can browse through an assortment of regular convenience store offerings: cold drinks, snacks, umbrellas and, of course, alcohol. According to a spokesperson, they’ll be adding imported food to their product mix in the coming weeks.

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

After choosing your items for purchase, you will place all of the items (a maximum of five) at the checkout counter, where the machine can scan a tag on the item. 

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

A cool safety feature of BingoBox is a sensor that can tell if all of the items you have with you have been paid for. If you have an item that you didn’t pay for, or if you forgot an item at the checkout counter, the door will stay locked until you have the appropriate number of items. Theft is therefore all but impossible, and if you attempt to leave BingoBox with any unpaid items, an alarm will sound off.

But what if something goes wrong and you are locked inside? Well, in order to enter you must have a smartphone, so if by chance something does go wrong, you will be able to call and report the problem.

Are China's Staff-less Stores a Glimpse into the Future?

During the first week of opening, Auchan employees were monitoring the store to ensure everything ran smoothly, but once operations are back on track, the only human beings inside the store will be customers. 

READ MORE: Introducing Guangzhou's Staff-less 24/7 Convenience Store

Additional reporting by Adrienne Hoe

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