Amazon has garnered a lot of press with its “unmanned supermarket.” In China, many companies are experimenting with “unmanned retail.” Companies have opened unmanned convenience stores, smart vending machines and unmanned shelves. In 2017, unmanned smart shelves in particular became the breakout trend. In contrast to smart vending machines – which have more sophisticated inventory control and payment options – unmanned shelves are simply open shelves and refrigerators. A QR code on the shelf will lead you to a products page where you pick the items you want and pay using WeChat Wallet. Then you simply grab what you want. Because they are easy to set up, they were popping up everywhere in China. Start-ups set up shelves and refrigerators inside offices and on the street, stacking them with snacks and drinks you would usually find at the convenience store down the street. These stores offer more variety than traditional snack-focused vending machines and more convenience than a trip to the local supermarket – which of course makes them popular. But with so many players in the market and so much hype, it’s hard to get a real grasp of the business landscape. Phoenix Weekly columnist Cui Sunya has compiled advice from a collection of start-up founders and investors to shed some light on the less glamorous side of the business. getAbstract recommends this eye-opening read to investors, entrepreneurs and anyone who’s being following the careful rollout of Amazon Go.
About the Author
Cui Sunya is an op-ed columnist at Phoenix Weekly and covers all things business, finance and tech.