Bin­goBox, Hema Xian­sheng try new mod­els to en­tice clients

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By SHI JING in Shang­hai shi­jing@chi­

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

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