After a quick registration through WeChat, users can enter the store through facial recognition. No smartphone operations will be needed at the cashier because the charges will be deducted from their accounts automatically. The 80-square meter unmanned convenience store sells daily groceries including juice boxes and other small snacks. The good damage rate is controlled at around 1% during the pilot period, lower than regular retail stores and supermarkets, Lenovo explained.
Best known for making computers, phones, and smart home devices, Lenovo is trying to catch up with China’s burgeoning new retail trend. The company rolled out its first offline smart gadget store at the beginning of this year and plans to launch 5,000 smart automated sales machines in the future five years.
The revenue of Lenovo’s new retail and internet-of-things unit Lecoo is expected to hit RMB 1 billion ($144 million) in the future two years and $1 billion by 2020, according to Zhou Ming, CEO of Lecoo.
Largely inspired by Amazon Go, the staffless store boom started in China in mid-2017 when a host of startups like BingoBox, Xingbianli, and Bianlifeng emerged. Although most of the staffless stores still need users to scan each item at the checkout point and pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay by scanning QR codes, it was fascinating enough to attract lots media coverage as well as funding.
Although the heat surrounding unmanned stores has cooled off as competition tightened, tech giants still find it a promising sector to focus on, especially as the technology matures with the support of AI. Lenovo is the latest entrant to the cashier-less convenience store frenzy, following Alibaba, JD, Suning.com, and Amazon.