BingoBox, Hema Xiansheng try new models to entice clients
Artificial intelligence is alive and well, and poised to move into your 24-hour convenience store.
New kid on the block BingoBox opened its first checkoutfree outlet in Shanghai last month and now plans to launch thousands of stores in the next two years.
Although that might look rather ambitious, the Chinese startup has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Already it has received 100 million yuan ($14 million) in a series A investment round, spearheaded by venture capital firm GGV Capital, as well as signing a strategic partnership agreement with French retail giant Groupe Auchan SA to strengthen its supply chain.
But it’s the technology that has made the difference.
“We have built a team of artificial intelligence experts to research and develop technologies, including product recognition and sorting algorithms,” Chen Zilin, founder and chief executive officer at BingoBox, told online business website China Money Network.
“This technology has successfully recognized more than 200 types of products,” he added. “We are planning to launch AI solutions for retail enterprises starting in August.”
Chen appears to be on a winner. He rolled out the company’s first 24-hour unattended convenience store in northern Shanghai’s Yangpu district last month.
Similar to the Amazon Go’s experimental outlet, there is no checkout or cashier.
Instead, BingoBox provides more than 500 products, including snacks, drinks and even fruit.
For shoppers, the process is easy. First, they scan a QR code, via their smartphone, to open the store door.
After that, they pick up their snacks and drinks before scanning them in the “product
Up to 80 percent of the company’s customers are born in the 1980s and 1990s. They are internet natives.” Hou Yi, founder and CEO of Hema Xiansheng
identification area”. Payment is then made through a QR code that pops up on the screen to complete the transaction.
At that point, the door opens to let the customer out. Simple, but very effective.
“We are optimistic about the retail industry’s transformation, and especially in BingoBox’s team,” Eric Xu, a managing partner at GGV Capital, told China Money Network.
The concept was developed by Zhongshan Bingo Internet Technology in Guangdong province, using AI and face recognition technology.
To sort out its supply chain problems, the company put together a partnership deal with Auchan.
“It was a way of testing the waters,” said Gu Xiaobei, who is in charge of investor relations at Sun Art Retail Group, which is the parent company of Auchan, in Shanghai.
But BingoBox’s approach illustrates what Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, talked about at a conference in Hangzhou last October.
He called for online and offline businesses to be combined with logistics in the next 20 years to nurture a new retail model.
Ma’s vision is starting to take shape in Alibaba’s $150 million investment in Hema Xiansheng, a platform which combines bricks-and-mortar