Report • 02.08.2017

Unmanned stores: what local supply might look like in the future

Mom-and-pop stores turn into apps

Even though store hours have become more flexible these days, we probably all know the following scenario: every time we urgently need something – typically on weekends- supermarkets are already closed for the day. In the future, unmanned stores that are open 24/7 could be the answer to ensuring around-the-clock local provisions.

“The unmanned store is another rationalization measure taken by the food retail sector, albeit one that gives consumers a time advantage,“ explains Professor Peter Wippermann, founder of the trend forecasting agency Trendbüro and adds, “It is all about providing additional services that save customers time.“

Impulse purchases of daily necessities are made here because the stores are open and accessible at any time. “They are essentially a mix between a convenience store and a vending machine by offering a wide selection of products round the clock,“ emphasizes Janine Seitz, a cultural anthropologist with a focus on “retail“ and Director of Reports and Publications at the Zukunftsinstitut (English: Institute for the Future). This makes unmanned stores direct competitors of convenience stores and gas stations.

This is not a new principle: libraries and fitness studies also manage to get by without staff 24/7.

“Näraffär“– an app replaces cashiers

One might think that the internet giant Amazon would be a trailblazer in this area, yet it’s a Swedish IT technician, who opened the unmanned convenience store ”Näraffär“ in early 2016 in southern Sweden’s town of Viken. The 45 square meter store features approximately 450 articles of daily use. Cigarettes, alcohol, and medicine are not part of the product selection. This would be too much of a lure for thieves.

Founder Robert Ilijason developed an app for Android and iOS devices, where customers first need to register. Once at the store, everything is done via smartphone. The door opens by using a QR code, customers scan the goods and are subsequently invoiced once a month. Customers can also offer suggestions about products they would like to see included in the selection or are able to communicate malfunctions via text function.

The idea of installing automated stores has been around since the 70s.

Photo
Source: Wheelys

MobyMart – mobile supermarket on wheels

The concept was so well received, the Wheelys Company – known for its mini cafés on wheels – bought Näraffär at the end of 2016 and launched MobyMart. The main difference between the new and the previous model: the unmanned store is on wheels and thus mobile and flexible in its use. In June 2017, the mini supermarket on wheels began its first test run in Shanghai.

MobyMart is about as wide as a delivery van and somewhat longer than a pickup truck. Customers can check the Moby app to see whether the supermarket is presently nearby and request for it to come to a specific parking lot. Check-in once again takes place via the app. A digital assistant welcomes customers and is available to answer any questions. When inventory runs low, the store autonomously drives itself to the warehouse.

Having said that, the store still does not run entirely independently. The legal position for self-propelled systems in Shanghai is somewhat vague, while the technology is not fully matured yet. That’s why the store is currently still remotely controlled. However, the developers are planning for the MobyMart to soon navigate fully autonomously. At the same time, the future version might also have drones on board that make deliveries.

“Unmanned“ does not mean that stores can go completely without employees. After all, shelves need to be restocked with new products or the premises require cleaning.

From Amazon Go and BingoBox all the way to Tao Café

These days, stores without sales people continue to make headlines. Amazon is waiting in the wings with Amazon Go. Here, customers wouldn’t even have to scan the products themselves to pay. Items are scanned and registered at the gate as customers simply leave the store and are automatically invoiced. However, presently no more than 20 people can use this service at the same time. That’s also why the internet giant has been postponing the grand opening since mid-2016.

The Japanese convenience stores Lawson and 7-Eleven are currently testing a similar concept as well. In May of this year, the French supermarket operator Auchan launched BingoBox in Shanghai, while Chinese snack manufacturer Wahaha opened five of these types of brick-and-mortar stores in June in Hangzhou. In early July, Alibaba also followed suit with Tao Café. In addition, the Chinese system relies on facial recognition to detect whether only registered users are entering the store and subsequently pay for all of their items.

Photo
Source: Alibaba

A future prospect for rural areas? Quite unlikely …

Manufacturers predominantly want to improve the supply in rural communities by developing models such as MobyMart or BingoBox. Having said that, both experts agree that this can likely not be implemented given today’s technical prerequisites. “Many older people live in rural areas and they need consulting or assistance when they shop or they are frequently not very savvy when it comes to technology. If unmanned stores are to be used successfully in rural communities, they need to be simple enough to where shoppers only require basic technical knowledge,“ explains Seitz. Trend researcher Wippermann adds, “The idea behind these stores is that customers are always connected to a provider’s network. In addition to this service, providers naturally also want to collect data. The notion to set up a hotspot for daily necessities is therefore primarily tailored to young urbanites, who can be reached on their smartphones around the clock.“ 

All of the previously mentioned solutions are currently still in an experimental stage. These solutions will be practical for everyday use not until a few years from now. What’s more, they are likely going to be popular in tech-savvy countries like the U.S., China, South Korea or Sweden. Meanwhile, the characteristic “German“ skepticism towards automated solutions and a tendency to be slower to adapt to self-checkouts or mobile payment solutions will likely cause unmanned stores to be sluggish in asserting themselves in the near future in Germany.

Author: Melanie Günther, iXtenso

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Ask the Bot: generative AI in retail
02.01.2024   #Tech in Retail #food retail

Ask the Bot: generative AI in retail

Revolution in retail: the era of generative AI and AI bots

They are able to analyse data, write product descriptions, answer shoppers’ questions or write codes...

Thumbnail-Photo: Toshiba Launches New ELERA™ Security Suite to Address the Industry’s...
22.09.2023   #cashpoints #customer experience

Toshiba Launches New ELERA™ Security Suite to Address the Industry’s Challenges Around Shrink

Toshiba’s A.I.-powered solution empowers retailers across the globe to better manage loss prevention and protect profits

Security Suite from Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions empowers retailers to minimize shrink...

Thumbnail-Photo: First of its kind accessible checkout unveild by Woolworths, creating...
03.01.2024   #Tech in Retail #cashpoints

First of its kind accessible checkout unveild by Woolworths, creating new employment opportunities

Breaking Barriers in Retail: Woolworths' New Checkout Design for Wheelchair Users

In what is believed to be a world first, Woolworths has unveiled an accessible checkout, designed specifically for team members living with a physical disability, including people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids such as walkers.The first ...

Thumbnail-Photo: The global state of autonomous stores
18.12.2023   #Tech in Retail #self-checkout systems

The global state of autonomous stores

The stores are located in various retail segments such as food retail, fashion, electronics, convenience stores and fast food.

In a highly competitive global retail landscape, autonomous stores are an emerging force that addresses changing consumer behaviors, reduces operational costs, improves profitability, and powers revenue growth strategies. Advancements in autonomous ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Out of Stock in Retail and innovative solutions to avoid them...
07.11.2023   #brick and mortar retail #customer satisfaction

Out of Stock in Retail and innovative solutions to avoid them

Due to various events, the availability of goods in retail will be increasingly restricted from 2022, with the result that customers cannot find in food retail the products they wish to buy, because those products are sold out, are temporarily ...

Thumbnail-Photo: New German vending partner for ITL
30.11.2023   #Tech in Retail #cash management

New German vending partner for ITL

Innovative Technology (ITL) have recently announced Bernd Boddart as their latest trading partner

Bernd Boddart will be supplying their cash validation and biometric age verification solutions to the German vending market. Bernd Boddart, based in Mönchengladbach, Germany, have 30 years of experience in the field of coffee machines, table ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Unified Commerce Platform in focus
24.10.2023   #omnichannel #software developement

Unified Commerce Platform in focus

Handover at REMIRA: Dirk Bingler supersedes Stephan Unser as CEO

REMIRA is setting the course for future development of the company: On November 1, Dirk Bingler (48) will become the new CEO of the supply chain and omnichannel software expert headquartered in Dortmund. The previous CEO Stephan Unser (62) moves to ...

Thumbnail-Photo: EuroCIS 2024: Go beyond today!
16.10.2023   #retail #Tech in Retail

EuroCIS 2024: Go beyond today!

27 to 29 February 2024 will see the Who’s Who of Europe’s retail technology sector meet in Düsseldorf

Go beyond today! EuroCIS at the end of February will once again show solutions and products for the retail of the future @Messe DüsseldorfIn late February, numerous companies will again exhibit solutions and products for retailers to shape and ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Tesco to introduce new scan-free technology on self-service tills at...
03.01.2024   #brick and mortar retail #Tech in Retail

Tesco to introduce new scan-free technology on self-service tills at GetGo store

Seamless Shopping Revolution: Tesco Tests Scan-Free Technology in London

Tesco is trialling an exciting new technology innovation that means customers don’t need to scan their items ...

Thumbnail-Photo: EuroCIS 2024 - technology special
11.12.2023   #online trading #e-commerce

EuroCIS 2024 - technology special

The latest technology solutions and trends for you and the retail sector

At EuroCIS 2022 from February 27 to 29, 2024, the Leading Trade Fair for Retail Technology, we will be looking at all the important and current topics relating to technology in retail: AI and Machine Learning, Payment, Connected Retail, Seamless Store and Smart Energy Management and many more.

Supplier

Zebra Technologies Germany GmbH
Zebra Technologies Germany GmbH
Ernst-Dietrich-Platz 2
40882 Ratingen
REMIRA Group GmbH
REMIRA Group GmbH
Phoenixplatz 2
44263 Dortmund
Captana GmbH
Captana GmbH
Bundesstraße 16
77955 Ettenheim
Innovative Technology Ltd.
Innovative Technology Ltd.
Innovative Business Park
OL1 4EQ Oldham