Cashless unmanned stores on the rise in China

Suning to open four new automated stores in ChinaGo to any supermarket store and often the long lines of queue beg for a solution. This is the tradition that consumers have come to expect and tolerate for years. A 2015 Harris Poll study, commissioned by Digimarc Corporation, revealed that 88% of US adults want their store checkout experience to be faster.

The Nielsen global report “Retail Evolution: Why marketing to the middle doesn’t work anymore” noted that 43% of respondents identify the ability to get in and out quickly or fast checkout (41%) as highly influential in their decision to shop at a particular retailer.

And with the growing success of e-commerce and improving efficiencies in last mile delivery, brick and mortar retailers are working to shorten the checkout processing time in an effort to improve customer satisfaction.

In markets like the UK, Sweden and Japan, efforts are underway to solve the problem of long checkouts that make shopping a chore.

In China, the Suning Commerce Group announced plans to open four new unmanned automated stores. For the Group, this is not the first time it has done so. Its initial foray into self-service store began with the roll out of "Suning Sports Biu" in Nanjing in August 2017. This was followed by the launch of its second cashier-less store in Shanghai on November 6.

The Group says three more stores will be opened soon in Beijing, Chongqing and Xuzhou. The new stores will sell sports products and souvenir items of well-known football clubs, such as F.C. Internazionale Milano. Consumers will also be able to find gadgets, personal electronics, food and FMCG goods to fulfill more unique purchasing demands.

According to Zhang Jindong, Chairman of Suning Holdings Group the 'Biu' store is the latest innovation of Suning's 'Smart Retail'.

"Suning has more than 1,500 brick-and-mortar stores which have been upgraded to big data-driven smart stores years ago. With extensive offline experience and advantages in O2O retail, Suning's unmanned store model has undergone the concept and trial stages, and is now ready to scale up. These stores are launched for business, and are reproducible, cost-wise and technology-wise. As today's tech-savvy consumers expect different shopping experience, we see more opportunities in the industry and Suning is dedicated to create best services for our customers," said Zhang.

Using facial recognition technology, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), big data analysis and its owned online financial services, Suning's unmanned stores offer a frictionless shopping and a paying process quicker than other similar stores to optimize the user experience.

Highlights include:

Facial recognition - After linking a bank card and going through the facial recognition on Suning Finance app, customers will be able to enter the store simply by letting the camera scan their faces at the entrance.

Effortless shopping experience - To check out, shoppers only need to carry their goods along the payment pathway. The system will automatically recognize the shoppers and their items with the facial recognition and RFID technology – making the entire check-out process shorter than 15 seconds.

Customer traffic and flow analysis - The surveillance cameras and an algorithm system developed by Suning is used to calculate and analyze customer flow in the stores to help optimize the product placement and enhance the shop operation.

With about 4,000 self-managed stores and outlets targeting on different communities under its belt, Suning plans to expand its offerings of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) in the unmanned stores to cover more diversified product lines. The unmanned stores will also feature Augmented Reality (AR) technology to display creative items, optimizing the space usage.

First published in Retail Tech Innovation


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