Last January, “Amazon Go” started its business targeting general customers. When entering the store, customers scan their app to register and while shopping freely, the selected items are automatically recognized by the AI technology embedded everywhere within the store. After shopping, customers are free to leave the store, as the app handles the payment transaction which is called the “Just walk out” technology. As technologies we had only imagined before, such as unmanned operation, face recognition, automatic payment, and robotics become reality, futuristic retail stores are approaching us closer.
What’s different about futuristic stores?
If we think about futuristic stores, we simply think of unmanned stores. It is true that ‘unmanned’ is one of the key aspects, but it is not everything in a futuristic store.
Based on 5G technology represented by ultra-high speed, ultra-low latency and large capacity, various customer experiences will be provided. For example, reinforcing security of stores through AI based surveillance camera and security robots, providing one-on-one custom promotion in real time via big data analysis, leveraging variety of ICT technologies such as AR / VR, digital signage, AI, voice recognition. Futuristic stores in the 5G era provide a whole new customer experience as well as reducing operating costs such as shop management, security and marketing.
Futuristic stores, already in our life
The futuristic store model is already a hot potato. Along with Amazon Go, various types of futuristic stores are appearing.
1) Unmanned convenience store “BingoBox”
China is most passionate about introducing futuristic stores such as convenience stores and supermarkets. BingoBox is a mobile type unmanned convenience store based on RFID tag. After its launch in 2013, it is vastly expanding within China. Customers can enter the store by verifying their Wechat account and items can be selected through the RFID tag. When leaving the store, payment must be made by the QR code.
2) Smart mirror, Self-checkout, Unmanned robot cart - “7FRESH” by JD.com
On January 2018, JD.com opened its new store “7FRESH,” presenting new technologies and services for customers. Smart mirror gives information on freshness of food materials and distribution channel since Chinese customers put great importance on it. The unmanned checkout service which is a combination of facial recognition system and Wechat pay was also introduced. The unmanned robot cart gained the most interest. If customers wear a smart bracelet while walking around the store, the robot cart follows the customer sensing the location. There is no need for customers to roll a cart.
3) Unmanned cafeteria “Eatsa”
Futuristic cafeteria has also appeared in our daily life! “Eatsa” located in the US, not only make customers finish their order and payment via tablet or mobile but also let them pick up their meal from the digital signage and locker. Except a few cooking staffs, all services are served unmanned. Menus are composed of foods with short cooking time like simple salads, and 400 customers can order per hour with only 5 minutes waiting time.
SK Telecom's dream plan
SK Telecom is visualizing a 5G based futuristic store concept image and is developing needed services and solutions combining IoT, AI and big data. Among these solutions, an O2O marketing platform ‘Smart check-in’ is adaptable at present stage. Smart check-in provides custom promotion by setting up a virtual ‘geo-fence (a virtual perimeter, compartmentalized above the actual terrain)’ to identify customers entering the fence.
When identifying the customer and offering various promotions such as coupon, discount, and additional services before the customer enters the store, it will lead to a more accurate shopping experience. Through Smart check-in, pre-order, drive thru ordering and payment, waiting tickets issuance and unique regional promotions, time sales are all available which makes it a perfect platform that attracts customers’ store visit.
Another technology that is currently available is the unmanned ordering feature using AI speakers. In many fast food stores, unmanned order/payment kiosks are already generalized. On SK Telecom’s kiosk, a voice recognition speaker is embedded to enable ordering through voice. The voice recognition kiosk makes customers order in a simpler process by providing a faster and convenient customer experience by shortening waiting time at peak times. At around year 2020, when 5G commercializes in our real life, futuristic stores will be easily spotted.
As technology develops day after day, things we expected to meet in the faraway future is coming closer. The movement towards futuristic stores utilizing intelligent surveillance camera, big data and IoT has already begun. We look forward to encountering new experiences in futuristic stores filled with bright ideas and latest technologies.