Deep Dive 13 minutes Premium

Autonomous Retail in China: Opportunities for Brands

What's Inside

In China, alternative retail formats are becoming more desirable for brands and retailers to meet consumer demand for safety and convenience in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In this report, we discuss the rise of “autonomous retail,” our term for a labor-light, technology-heavy retail segment that encompasses unstaffed stores, vending machines and unstaffed shelves.

We present insights into the accelerated development of the unstaffed retail business in China due to Covid-19. We explore the features, typical locations, size, initial setup costs, advantages and disadvantages of the three autonomous retail formats in China, with examples of operators in each space:

  1. Unstaffed stores—F5 Future Store, Bianlifeng
  2. Vending machines—Maker Store,
  3. Unstaffed shelves—Bianligou by MissFresh

This report covers technologies such as RFID, robotics, QR codes and self-checkout.

To read related content, see our previous report on unstaffed stores and our recent Retail Reimagined report on contact-light retail.

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