SHANGHAI – Shoppers at a Shanghai Mall got on Saturday to experience tech giant Tencent’s first unmanned offline store.
Spread over around 300 square meters (3,230 square feet), the pop-up store, called “We Life,” is still a prototype without any cash registers or tellers, and allows customer inside for shopping after they scan a QR Code with their phone.
Chang Xiaoyue, a customer at the store, told EFE she found the experience very liberating as it was devoid of human interaction and she was free to choose her own products at her own pace.
All products at We Life are equipped with tags which use magnetic chips to store information and are linked to the company’s payment platform WeChat Pay, a service offered by instant messaging app WeChat, frequently called the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp, but is known to be more functional.
After choosing their products, the buyers are stopped at a security counter, which scans the chosen products and places them in a virtual basket on the mobile app of the store, following which the customer pays through WeChat Pay.
The trial run of We Life – which concludes Sunday – comes a mere few days after the much hyped Amazon Go was opened to the public on Jan. 22.
Tencent’s debut in the offline store sector, however, comes with a different twist as unlike Chinese e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba – which has its own chain of brick-and-mortar supermarkets called Hema – Tencent is looking toward providing its offline store services to other companies.
“Instead of opening our own brick-and-mortar stores, we would like to present such business models to third-party partners,” Bai Zhenjie, an executive, in charge of retail at WeChat Pay, had told state newspaper China Daily.
However, Tencent is not the only Chinese company that is using this artificial intelligence-based business model.
Last month, e-commerce firm JD.com had announced plans to open hundreds of unmanned convenience stores.
Alibaba, too, presented a similar plan during a recent trade fair.