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Did Alibaba just rip off Amazon's unmanned supermarket? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2017-7-14 09:48:15 |Display all floors
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Over the weekend, a new, unstaffed store opened up in Hangzhou. The Tao Café, created and run by Alibaba, is part of the e-commerce giant's efforts to break into the market of brick-and-mortar shops before and then watch as its competitors crumble.
But Alibaba was not the first to have this idea. It appears that, at least in this area, China's e-commerce leader has been struggling to keep up with its main global rival: Amazon. The American e-commerce company opened an unstaffed store in the US at the end of 2016, and Alibaba is just now getting around to opening their own.
At this point, unstaffed stores are even becoming a bit old school, considering the fact that a Swedish company just opened an automated, self-driving mobile store in Shanghai last month and that another app-controlled convenience store in Shanghai, BingoBox, has already been temporarily shut down for "technical maintenance."
Even so, according to ECNS, there was a long line of people waiting to enter Alibaba's new store on its opening day. Undoubtedly, they were attracted not only by the possibility of a futuristic shopping experience, but also by the fact that the products available were 20-30% cheaper than those at a typical convenience store.
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Part of the appeal of this business model is that companies get to significantly cut back on the costs of maintaining a fully-staffed store. Currently, there are a few assistants at the Hangzhou location, there to make sure that customers understand the shopping process, but ideally, such help will be unnecessary once these stores become commonplace. Humans will no longer be needed.
In order to enter the store, customers must have Alibaba's Taobao app downloaded on their phone. Each door has a gate, which resembles those found on subways, where shoppers scan their personal QR code upon entry.
Up to 50 customers at a time can peruse the 200-square-meter space, and may purchase a variety of fast food beverages and snacks. After selecting their desired products, shoppers simply exit the store via passages equipped with facial recognition scanners. Once their faces are confirmed each patron is then charged automatically for their purchases via their phone's Alipay app.
The system developer of the technology used in the store is Ant Finance, a tech company owned by Alibaba. And it seems that they have done a pretty good job.
The rapid advancement of these automated shops heralds dark times ahead for traditional retailers. Alibaba is just one part of the technological revolution occurring in China, in which businesses either evolve or fall into obscurity. So, if you can't make the day-trip to Hangzhou to visit the Tao Café, do not fear; this store will certainly not be the last of its kind.(news from the shanghai daily)

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Post time 2017-7-22 10:54:16 |Display all floors
I don't think the term 'ripped off' is appropriate otherwise second-movers and trends followers which started with western companies and those in japan would have not have made progress to canvas locking market shares by copying one another up till today in many branding areas.

That out of the way, we should think about how to help the small mom-n-pop shops. These are small outfits, usually single owned but starting on personal savings or funds from family members and friends, or small loans from the branch banks around the corner. Their operations so far have been simple - take stock on consignment and sell to people who live nearby for small profits to continue month to month, often with a six-to-eight month time horizon only. In China, there would be millions of such shops. They sell non-trolley groceries, garments, footwear, stationery, diy hardware, computer accessories and so on in the galaxy of small hand-carried items. And let us not exclude the small eateries, music shops, hand-phone shops, optician outlets, even medical halls and pharmacies.

Because of the competition from big retailers like supermarkets which make on volume sales supplier credit terms and weekend shopping total experience, customers will gravitate more and more to the big retailers for their weekly one-time all items purchases inclusive of special offers with the bonus of a family outing to meet, eat and be entertained thrown in.

Meanwhile the small shops suffer loss of daily business because they cannot compete on price owing to rent increasing with population increase, cost of their supplies increasing with natural inflationary pressures and difficulty in getting good helpers. They themselves too face stiff competition with other shops in the same vicinity because location defines customer traffic, and vice versa.

Since the small shops are a microcosm of a market and are also employers of owners and helpers, one should make every attempt to help them if only to sustain an industry thousands of years old.

In retailing, price and convenience are the linchpins to sales. How to keep their prices competitive? Volume purchases through their respective cooperatives, perhaps. How to push sales from convenience? A small-shop system that enables mobile payments as well as shop2home deliveries, perhaps. How to lower their overheads? Free online job advertisements, and information e-counter on the catalog of their products such as a retailers e-marketplace, even. How to add new values to their business? Big data analytics of their business and sector flows combined with e-logistics of their suppliers for quick and easy j-i-t replenishment so that their goods holding costs are reduced; also customized sourcing services, and constant research on new products and services - from around the world - so that new products and ideas from the whole world can be quickly turned into saleable items in the small shops ahead of the big retailers in order to enable them to maintain competitive edge in areas which the big retailers don't have enough shelf-space to adopt.

I am just writing this off the head and from old memory of walking streets sympathizing with many small shop owners; you may have better ideas. For example, bank relationships for better funding that is not immediately based on past cash-flow records.

If one can solve or reduce the perennial small-retailing challenge, the solutions and ideas can be exported to the rest of the world. Which also has been facing the same challenge.

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