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The Clone Wars: Amazon Go–Type Stores Already Open for Business in China

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Coresight Research

Key Points

  • Unstaffed stores have been around since the late 1800s, and automats (cafeterias where customers bought items from vending machines) were commonplace in New York City until the last one closed in 1991.
  • While Amazon received a huge amount of attention when it first uploaded a video of its unstaffed Amazon Go store to YouTube last December, other retailers have been working on this concept and have opened similar types of stores in China and other countries.
  • BingoBox appears to be the early leader, currently operating eight stores and targeting 5,000 by the end of the year. Customers can make purchases with WeChat or Alipay at the stores.
  • Alibaba recently opened a Tao Cafe format that runs on purchases made on the company’s Taobao consumer-to-consumer platform.
  • Moby Mart, another unstaffed store, runs on solar power and is currently undergoing testing in Shanghai.
  • These stores use a variety of technologies such as facial, image and voice recognition that have not been combined before, and Amazon Go and BingoBox have suffered technical glitches. The companies are likely to overcome these difficulties soon, though, and the stores could become a big hit with smartphone-armed consumers who dislike waiting in line in traditional stores.
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