BingoBox is becoming one of the more vivid examples of how fast innovation is moving in China’s retail industry along with Alibaba’s initiative in unmanned stores powered by their face recognition technology. However, the concept isn’t without its own teething problems. A BingoBox in Shanghai was closed for being too hot and when we tried one ourselves, we found the service had some flaws, such as invalid product tags and no paper receipts, causing customer frustration.

BingoBox (缤果盒子) is an unmanned convenience store that can greet customers 24/7, and requires the customer to have a mobile phone. It’s like the Chinese answer to the Amazon Go unmanned store. In the supply chain, the company has reached a strategic partnership with Auchan Group, one of the top ten retailers in the world, which is in charge of its supply chain to cover BingoBox convenience stores in the East China region and possible global expansion. It’s not completely unmanned: on site, we met an Auchan employee who was restocking the BingoBox.

BingoBox has completed Series A, acquiring more than RMB 100 million ($14 million) in investment led by GGV Capital, followed by Qiming Venture Capital, Source Code Capital, Ventech China and other institutions, our sister site TechNode Chinese reported on July 3rd.

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What is BingoBox and how does it work?

BingoBox store in front of Auchan supermarket (Image Credit: TechNode)

BingoBox store in front of Auchan supermarket (Image Credit: TechNode)

Users only need a smartphone to enter and purchase an item in a BingoBox. To enter, a user scans a QR code via their WeChat account. After a text message authentication, the door will automatically open. Customers choose their wares, then scan the products with a scanner like a cashier would. A screen displays the running total and the shopper can complete the payment using Alipay and WeChat Pay.

The main products in BingoBox are biscuits, potato chips, instant noodles, dairy products, and drinks with about 500-800 different product lines. BingoBox says its stores offer prices about 5% lower than those of other convenience store brands, and that they provide RMB 60 in discounts for new users.

In 2013, the team launched their first service BingoFruit (缤果水果), an O2O version of the fruit delivery business. The company said that it has its own logistics channel, and was also the first to achieve two-hour delivery. In August 2016, they first tried an unmanned convenience store in Guangdong’s Zhongshan city, and on June 6th this year, they opened in two locations in Shanghai.

At the beginning of 2017, they reportedly made progress in artificial intelligence to achieve accurate identification of more than 200 categories of goods. With their team of deep learning experts, they are working on commodity identification and classification algorithms, through the algorithmic optimization and mass training. They are planning to launch a large-scale commercial artificial intelligence solution this August.

Currently, the company holds 16 international patents, including anti-theft systems, automatic billing systems, and facial recognition.

BingoBox benefits

Wang Ran, a customer (Image Credit: TechNode)

Wang Ran, a customer (Image Credit: TechNode)

Wang Ran (30)

I was interested in Amazon’s unmanned store, and I read an article about BingoBox on the website and came here to try it out with my friend, Deng Fei. It took me 30 minutes to get here. I previously worked in the technology part of the supply chain at Alibaba’s Tmall. They also want to do this.

I think the idea is very good. You can make the purchase in a store all by yourself. It’s fun. If it’s a packaged product, I can buy it here, and buy fresh groceries at the supermarket. It’s more like a convenience store, and more people will love this kind of store since it’s easy to try it out. I bought a pack of milk, a can of Sprite, and a can of beer.

An employee at Auchan filling up the goods and purchasing a yogurt for himself (Image Credit: TechNode)

An employee at Auchan filling up the goods and purchasing a yogurt for himself (Image Credit: TechNode)

Auchan’s employee

I’ve worked at Auchan for two years. BingoBox will spread, and more people will use it. It opened on June 6th this year. I come in here about six to seven times a day to fill up the products that have sold out. The price here is same as at Auchan. It’s really convenient, and I use it too to buy drinks.

Tuanzi Fang, a customer (Image Credit: TechNode)

Fang Tuanzi, a customer (Image Credit: TechNode)

Fang Tuanzi (29)

We’re a couple living in the area. About two weeks ago, I caught sight of this shop. We buy big things in Auchan and just bought a bottle of water here. I just wanted to buy a bottle of water, and you have to wait in a long line [in other stores]. I think they can put BingoBoxes around bars or basketball courts, that way people will come in to buy drinks and snacks. Simple things are what we need, so the items in the BingoBox are good enough. But I’m not sure if this model would work if the shop gets any bigger.