Technology replaces staff to transform shopping experience in China

Typically during a trip to the store, there are store shelves and products for sale. But at some businesses, one thing is missing – the staff.

At one unmanned store in southwestern Guizhou Province, customers need a QR code scanner to enter and check out items.

It’s all designed to make the shopping experience quick and easy. The model is luring more and more business owners.

Finding staff has become harder with China’s population slowing down and getting older.

The unmanned stores help save on employee costs and rent as they’re easy to assemble and dismantle if relocation is necessary.

“Traditional convenience stores like us can’t afford to run 24- hours a day, and it’s hard for us to get the sales data at first,” said Zhang Yu, owner of the Qiancheng convenience store.  “We have to face overstocking products, and the cost and operation risks are relatively high for us. I’ve seen this kind of unmanned store online before and I think it’s amazing.”

The technology uses facial recognition and employees off-site are still keeping an eye on things.

“Speaking of hardware, the store uses bullet-proof glass. Inside, there are surveillance cameras working 24-hours a day in all 360-degree with no blind zones,” said Zeng Dongliang, general manager of Mingyu Intelligent Technology Co.  “Our staff can check the stores at any time from our background monitoring system. A real-time intercom is also available.”

The unmanned stores are taking off quickly. Chinese retail giants Alibaba and JD.com have already opened stores.

“Our main purpose is to allow unmanned stores to get closer to our consumers,” said Li Zuojiang of Intelligent Technology Co.

And get closer to consumer habits. The stores’ technology is also used to gauge buying preferences to help stores make decisions on inventory.

With anything new, there are problems. Technological glitches can hamper the process and some customers still crave personalized service.

But unmanned stores is just another option to make that visit to the store a whole new experience.

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