Amazon made waves in North America when it launched the pilot of a grocery store with no staff. (Well, one staff.)
The concept was cool and Amazon is working toward opening its first store to the public this year. But it turns out that a company in China is ahead of the game, with more than a dozen automated shops in operation and over a hundred others planned.
BingoBox in Shanghai is the response to rising labor costs in China, which have pushed manufacturers to implement robots in retail settings, reports the Financial Times:
The entrance to the BingoBox in Shanghai, a single-aisle affair dropped Tardis-like into a parking lot behind a supermarket, is unlocked by the use of mobile phone app. Customers scan items for payment, with theft prevented by the use of real-name registration and video monitoring.
Upward of 200 more BingoBox stores—which have proven especially popular at night—are expected to launch within the next couple of months. Chen Zilin, who founded the chain, told FT that he was “very happy when Amazon Go was announced” because, prior to that validation, critics called the entrepreneur’s idea “stupid.”
There is also the advent of the Wheelys Moby-Mart, which takes the concept one step forward by being not only staffless, but also autonomous. Based on the success of Wheelys Café, a mobile coffee shop with a franchise presence in 60 countries, the Moby-Mart is open 24/7 and features no workers, no lines, and no checkouts.
The Moby-Mart is currently being beta tested in Shanghai, but its creators promise the store is “not science fiction.”
“By using AI, patented inventions, and the famous cloud, the Moby turns technology unvisible,” the company Wheelys says. “Running on electricity and equipped with solar panels the Moby is also the most environmentally friendly store on the market.”