Chinese tech start-up BingoBox has launched a staff-free, 24/7 store in Zhongshan City (Southern China) that's entirely facilitated by the country's biggest messaging platform, WeChat. The move confirms the power of social media (and the smartphone) as the axis around which many consumers now run their lives.
To enter the fully automated space, shoppers must scan a digitally displayed QR code on the door using WeChat's scanner feature. Inside, they can browse more than 800 products including daily necessities such as drinks, groceries and over-the-counter medicine. Items are paid for via WeChat at an automated self-checkout; scanning another QR code with their smartphone connects shoppers to their mobile wallets held within the WeChat system.
To exit, shoppers have to scan yet another QR code to reopen the door. This is connected to a 'virtual tagging' security system that verifies that all items have been paid for. If in need of assistance, visitors can press a button on the wall by the checkout desk to activate a real-time video chat with a BingoBox staff member, who helps remotely.
The compact unit measures approximately 15 sq m and is designed for easy relocation (see also Flexible Store Formats). It can be digitally programmed to lift itself and be pushed in any direction, thanks to foldout wheels in its base.
See also Amazon Go's Checkout-Free Grocery Stores, Staffless Smartphone-Powered Shop, Rapid Retail, Future Supermarket Strategies, Mobile World Congress 2016 and Mobile Payments Round-Up, 2017. See also Social to Store: Spurring Key Crossover, publishing on April 13.