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Self-service convenience store debuts in Chongqing

Updated: 2017-07-12

By Sun Hui,

Following the hit of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's first cashier-less café in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on July 8, a 24-hour self-service convenience store became operational in Chongqing on July 9.

The 12-square-meter convenience store, located in the city's Liangjiang New Area Internet Industrial Park, offers beverages, instant noodles and snacks with no salesclerk or cashier's desk.

Entry into the shop is through a ticket gate similar to that of a subway station, however, customers must register in advance using WeChat, China's leading social media app, before scanning a QR code to enter the store and make purchases. Once customers have completed their purchase they scan another QR code to exit the store.

Self-service convenience store debuts in Chongqing

A staff member demonstrates how to use WeChat to scan a QR code to enter the self-service store in the Liangjiang New Area Internet Industrial Park on July 10. [Photo by Shi Tao/]

The store is operated by internet company Chongqing Yunyou Tianxia Information Technology Co Ltd. Liao Jie, deputy general manager of the company, said, "The self-service store is developed based on advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analysis and image identification."

The store has been installed with three surveillance cameras and an automatic security alarm system to avoid thefts. Before entering the store, shoppers also need to pass a real-name identification system screening on their phone, which is connected with the local police station.

Li Jing, dean of the Economics School of Chongqing Technology and Business University, said that the self-service stores are the extension of vending machines, which can better serve customers and reduce labor costs.

Self-service convenience store debuts in Chongqing

A staff member presents how to use WeChat to buy products at the self-service store in Chongqing on July 10. [Photo by Shi Tao/]

The smart shopping model has attracted attention from foreign and domestic investors. Except Alibaba's attempt to take e-shopping offline, an unmanned 24-hour BingoBox convenience store also opened in Shanghai last month. The company has raised $15 million in funding to expand its business, saying that only four staff members are needed to run around 40 stores.

The development of smart shopping has benefitted from the fast expansion of e-payment technology. China's banking institutions handled more than 25.7 billion mobile payments last year with a transaction volume of 157.55 trillion yuan ($23 trillion), according to a report by the People's Bank of China.

Self-service convenience store debuts in Chongqing

A technician monitors the unmanned store through surveillance cameras in Liangjiang on July 10. [Photo by Shi Tao/]

However, there are still many obstacles faced by smart shopping. "At the moment, the unmanned stores can not totally take the place of manual work," said Li Jing.

"Consumer shopping habits will be another big problem for the expansion of self-service stores."

Liao Jie said, "Technology will become the biggest bottleneck for the development of unmanned sales." But she is still optimistic about the future of the high-tech self-service offline consumption model.

Edited by Zachary Dye


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