While Amazon Go has been stealing headlines since it was revealed last year, we here at TechNode have been covering China’s increasing commitment to unmanned stores for about just as long. But, how exactly are China’s stores different and why are the technological and business models different from Amazon Go?

First is speed: After announcing the project, the Amazon Go store did not actually open until this year (to much excitement.) Amazon is nothing if not an increasing data- and technology-driven company. Much of this time, we can assume, was spent testing not only the technology but also the user experience: Does the store feel good to use? What are the factors that increase purchases? How can we make sure that people aren’t immediately bewildered by the absence of cashiers and rule-enforcers? I have no special insight into Amazon’s internal process; I pose these questions because these are the questions that I would ask if I were developing this new shopping experience. Amazon has the luxury of time: there’s no one else who can come close to succeeding in this space. China is different.

China speed forces everyone in the ecosystem to focus on getting to market as soon as possible. In many cases, this means taking the minimum viable product philosophy to its logical conclusion: it may not look great, but it works. The accepted wisdom in China’s tech space is that companies should look to grow users as fast as possible and then think about UX, optimization, and profit later. Many young companies are currently going through that painful transition.

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John Artman

John Artman is the Editor in Chief for TechNode, the leading English information source for news and insight into China’s tech and startups, and co-host of the China Tech Talk podcast, a regular discussion...