Mobile Payments: Wechat opens unmanned convenience store in Shanghai
WeChat opened its first unmanned convenience store in Shanghai on Friday. The move marks the first time that China's internet giant Tencent has stepped into the unmanned retail industry. More than 800 million WeChat users have linked the app to their bank accounts. The company described its first self-service shop as a "flash mob" store.
Open Wechat, scan the QR code for identification, and choose your form of payment. It takes less than ten seconds to enter WeChat's new self-service store. The whole shopping process is a take-it-and-go autonomous experience. At the exit, sensors automatically scan the products' price information.
BAI ZHENJIE DIRECTOR OF WECHAT PAYMENT RETAIL "Only those who have real name authentication and open payment code are able to enter the store to buy the products inside. Besides, a second confirmation is needed at the end of the purchasing process. One cannot go out if payment fails."
The Wechat self-service store will close after two weeks to one month. That's why it's called a "flash mob" store. The company intends to sell basic commodities in the stores. Facial recognition technology will be introduced in future unmanned stores.
Ever since retailing giant Amazon introduced the grab-and-go unmanned convenience store concept in 2016, the concept has been gaining in popularity, especially in China, where many consumers already use mobile payment apps. Last year, unmanned convenience store chains F5 Future Store and BinguoBox received 130 million yuan in financing. And China's Internet giant Alibaba unveiled its very first unmanned supermarket Tao Cafe.
However, unmanned stores are still in the early testing phase with technologies involved far from mature. Most of China's estimated 100,000 convenience stores still rely on trained personnel. But automated service technologies show real promise. It's estimated that the market for unmanned stores will reach 950 billion yuan by 2022.