China is witnessing a technological boom in its shops and restaurants – and human staff are being edged out.
Very soon, shopping and eating out in China can be a human-free experience.
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In May, online retail giant JD announced its plan to use drone aircraft for delivery for online shoppers.
In July, a Chinese start-up unveiled its own version of Amazon Go called Bingobox – an unmanned, mobile 24-hour convenience store, where consumers can use a self-service scanner to scan products and make purchases with their smartphones.
Alibaba’s new trial brand Tao Cafe now goes the extra mile for convenience.
It is a cashier-less cafe and shop in one, with the help of facial recognition to track purchases.
People are required to scan a QR code at the entrance, with their smartphone linked to their account, and their faces are identified by cameras for facial recognition.
So whatever they walk away with, the price will automatically be deducted from their app account.
Although the cafe still requires human labour to prepare food and drink, its cashierless concept means people do not have to queue to pay.
This is a huge bonus for the time-pressed (so, everyone).
This development in staff-less checkouts shows how Chinese brands are trying to improve the shopping experience in brick-and-mortar retail to compete with online shopping, hoping to win back convenience-driven older millennials and mid-lifers.
A recent GlobalData survey found that 45 percent of Chinese people aged 25-34 perceive convenience to be the greatest benefit of online shopping; an impressive 74 percent of those aged 35-44 rely heavily on time-saving products and services.
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The queue-free grab and go approach would work particularly well in takeaways.
Rapid urbanisation and busy lifestyle means more and more Chinese consumers want time spending for themselves and their favourite activities, rather than spending it on waiting for products and services.
The same survey found that when asked what is the most important reason for prioritising time-saving products and services, 29 percent of Chinese consumers claim they want more time to themselves for hobbies or relaxing, 26 percent want less stress in their lives, and 25 percent want more time for socialising.
Technology does not only benefit consumers; it also provides a cost-effective solution for businesses. JD’s use of drone delivery aircraft will reduce the high cost of delivering goods to rural areas.
The owner of unmanned convenience store Bingobox claimed that it only required four employees to run 40 stores.