Watch out Amazon Go, China's BingoBox is on the move
Photo courtesy of BingoBox
Amazon Go has garnered a lot of press in the U.S. with its cashierless convenience stores that use artificial intelligence, but BingoBox in China is already several steps ahead on the unmanned retail front, with plans to expand internationally.
The Chinese store, which consumers enter by scanning a QR code at the door, has already been installed in more than 300 locations in 30 cities in China, according to a presentation at the recent ShopTalk conference at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.
|Hans Tung describes BingoBox|
at the ShopTalk conference.
The company has secured contracts with seven city governments in China, according to Hans Tung, a managing partner at GGV Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in BingoBox.
Tung characterized the system, which launched in 2016, as a cross between a convenience store and a vending machine that represents a new convenience channel. He showed a video demonstrating the ease with which consumers use a QR code to gain access to the store, where they can shop for hundreds of convenience items and pay for selected items via their mobile phone.
Shoppers place the items for purchase on a checkout counter that uses image recognition and machine learning to calculate the purchase, according to the GVV website.
Shoppers pay via mobile through their Alipay or WeChat account. To exit the store, the customer scans a QR code. A camera checks to ensure that all items have been paid for before allowing the door to unlock.
Video links to customer support
Although the 24-hour store is unmanned, a customer support video call system allows customers to speak to support staff, Xilin Chen, BingoBox CEO, told Kiosk Marketplace via email.
"Our stores carry from 400 to 800 items depending on the locations," Chen said. "Stores that locate near a residential area will have fresh food and fruits offerings."
The stores use facial recognition for access authorization and theft prevention, Chen said. The facial recognition system identifies the shopper upon entry, according to a video on the BingoBox website. Surveillance cameras allow an employee in an offsite location to monitor store activity in real time.
The system also has the capability of sending promotions to shoppers based on their individual customer purchase history, but Chen said the company is not yet using this functionality.
It normally takes 40 minutes to restock a store, Chen said.
The stores are easy to assemble and dismantle, he added, so they can be moved to another location.
The average BingoBox store makes $150 to $300 per day, according to GVV.
Transactions are completed with 99.6 percent accuracy, Tung noted in his presentation, and they take one second compared to 8.6 seconds on average for manual checkouts.
BingoBox has recently introduced a "mini" version that can be installed within traditional retail stores, he said.
Tung did not reveal the store's installation cost, but said that payback takes just five months. He said the stores incur a monthly operational cost of less than $632.
Besides GVV Capital, BingoBox investors include Chinese venture firms Qiming Venture Partners, Source Code Capital and Ventech China, all of which participated in a $14 million funding round, according to China Money Network.
China leads in unmanned stores
Some technology observers have claimed that Amazon Go technology is more advanced than BingoBox. China, however, has significantly more cashierless convenience stores in operation, based on recent reports, with more on the way.
According to data aggregator ITJuzi, in the third quarter of 2017 alone, China's cashierless retail sector attracted 1 billion yuan (about $156 million) in funding.
JD.com, the second largest online retailer in China after Alibaba, reported in December that it will team with real estate developer China Overseas Land & Investment to open hundreds of unmanned shops, according to The Telegraph.
JD.com will use facial recognition to enable the shop to show customized promotions based on a customers' shopping habits and demographics. Its trial shops have already been tested by the 10,000 employees at its Beijing headquarters.
While Tung did not address e-commerce extensively during his ShopTalk presentation on BingoBox, he noted that e-commerce increases physical commerce activity, and vice versa.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.