While the Western World Talks About Amazon Go, China Goes Public with BingoBox
By Floriane Charles
Amazon Go and BingoBox are innovative and automated stores both based on the same concept: a grocery or convenience store that allows consumers to pay through their smartphones and skip the checkout line.
How Does BingoBox Work?
Amazon Go hopes to allow customers to simply pick up items and walk out, charging their account shortly after their exit. On the other hand, BingoBox requires the buyer to scan articles and pay on the spot using their smartphones. Following the payment, a camera scans and authenticates the checkout to prevent theft. The BingoBox payment process begins with customers registering through the app and scanning a QR code in order to open the door. This data is subsequently sent over to WeChat, the popular Chinese social media app. Customers can then pick up their products, scan them at a self-checkout counter, and use their smartphones to pay, either through WeChat or Alipay. Finally, if the camera validates their purchase, they may exit.
BingoBox has partnered with Auchan, a French retail chain, to open 5,000 stores in China by the end of 2017, with two currently operating in Shanghai and plans to open thousands more in the upcoming two years. If that isn’t proof enough of their upcoming success, they also have secured USD 15 million in series A funding with venture capital firm GGV capital leading the round.
BingoBox Vs. Amazon Go
Amazon Go seems to be using the elimination of checkout lines as their biggest selling point, but BingoBox has outlined other advantages. Not only are the lines non-existent, but thanks to their mobility, these Chinese convenience stores of approximately 15m² can be located anywhere. This allows them to carry an assortment of approximately 800 products, often specific to BingoBox’s location, selected in an attempt to meet the needs of the local demographic. For example, a store near a school will have products best suited to younger shoppers, while one in a residential area is more likely to offer family-oriented products. The products will also be sold at a lower price than traditional stores, with discounts ranging from 5% to 30% according to different sources. Amazon Go has made no comments about discounted products, implying this will not be a feature of their stores. This isn’t the only difference that can be expected between the two: while BingoBox is open 24/7, there is no information regarding the opening hours of the Amazon Go stores. However, seeing as both Amazon Go and BingoBox stores are unmanned, this may be the case for Amazon too.
The Inevitable Question
How are these stores sustainable without staff? Well, the stores aren’t entirely staffless. BingoBox will need staff to re-stock the store and do inventory, but this can be done in under twenty minutes. Overall, this amounts to four people required to run forty stores. The founder of BingoBox stated that people are a big cost, which inspired him to develop a store that was more automated.
Although Amazon Go’s concept is more advanced than BingoBox, it’s also the reason for which they’re not present in the marketplace, other than a single storefront in Seattle only open to employees. The reason for this delay can be attributed to the many issues they are still facing, such as their inability to deal with a large number of customers. For BingoBox, these innovative features allow for a win-win situation: the company makes more profit from less staff, while the customers get access to products any time of the day, anywhere in the city. We may be looking at the future of convenience stores, and for those who always end up shopping at two a.m., hoping for as little human interaction as possible, it’s a bright one.