Chen Zilin: No Staff Manning Store; BingoBox Has Hit Malaysian Shores

FUTURE OF RETAIL

Chen Zilin: No Staff Manning Store; BingoBox Has Hit Malaysian Shores

Powered completely by technology, BingoBox China’s unmanned stores have reached Malaysia and it is set to transform offline retail shopping experience in a big way. AWANI Review speaks to BingoBox founder and CEO Chen Zilin.

No cash, no staff and no checkout counters. The future of shopping in unmanned stores has taken off in China and Malaysia is set to be disrupted in the same way.

BingoBox, China’s biggest unmanned store operator, has tied up with local company, Scientific Retail to bring its technology here, which includes artificial intelligence, image recognition, facial recognition and theft prevention system - all in a 160 square feet store.

“Malaysia is similar to the Chinese market -  it is rigorous and I think the population of Generation Z is taking off,”says BingoBox Founder and CEO ChenZilin at the launch earlier this week.

Malaysia is also open minded and willing to accept new things

“Malaysia is also open minded and willing to accept new things,” he adds.

At the moment, public can experience the stores at Bukit Ceylon and Shell Jalan Tun Razak. (Shell Malaysia and e-wallet provider Boost has partnered with Scientific Retail in rolling out the technology. Shell Malaysia Trading Managing Director Shairan Huzani Husain says it has 300 stations ‘ready to go’ if the first one turns out be a success.)

The consumer experience is quite simple; download the BingoBox app, scan the QR code to enter store, select the products, bring them to a scanner and pay via different e-payment systems - done under ten seconds, Bingobox promises.

While BingoBox in China requires real-name registration (to help prevent fraud), in Malaysia, users register through their mobile number.

Should an item be taken out of the store without being paid for, BingoBox sends a reminder message to ‘pay up’ to the user’s mobile within 24 hours. If there’s no response, BingoBox will then send the CCTV footage to the user. Only when all reminder options have been utilised, the case will then be handed over to the police for further action.

According to Zilin, theft has not been an issue for its operation in China, citing occurrences are ‘very, very low’.

“Stealing will happen but most of the cases involve kids,” he says. “In fact, it (theft) is lower than traditional manned convenience stores.”

Only ten out of one million transactions are irrecoverable, says BingoBox.

No Issue in Educating Consumers

To date, BingoBox operates over 500 stores in 40 cities across China, Taiwan and South Korea.

The price range to set up one store using BingoBox retail technology (similar to the image above) is RM150,000 to RM200,000 with a monthly service fee (charges vary, depending on services rendered).

Retailers stand to benefit in two ways - one, lower costs (Bingobox unmanned stores help reduce costs by 15 percent) and from the collection of valuable consumer data, which allows for more targeted reach.

Scientific Retail CEO Ng Seong Ping says he aims to have 500 retailers use its technology in Malaysia by the end of 2019, adding that the technology’s applications are not just limited to convenience stores.

“We are a technology provider but we are not limited to that. We also provide end-to-end set up including internal and external fabrication,  as well as 24-hour monitoring services and remote ‘face-to-face’ customer support.”

Amazon Go Is Not Ready for Fast Application

BingoBox is not focused on ramping up global expansion, with Japan and Australia next in the pipeline, with stores expected to launch this year. Meanwhile, in South Korea, it is rolling out twenty more stores soon.

The company is moving particularly fast in its home base China (“One to two thousand more stores planned for China in the ‘coming months’”, says Zilin) where unmanned stores are taking off with tech giants Tencent and JD.Com also joining in the fray.

However, Zilin says he is not worried about competition. “Frankly speaking, we don’t feel any competition, yet. I think it is because the market is huge in china and unmanned stores is in a very early stage. There are not very big players in this category and we are the biggest now.”

“At this stage, we are focused to open as many stores as we can. This is our main business, we will not go into other industries.”

The idea for BingoBox came about when the advertising man-turned-entrepreneur sold fruits via WeChat. To lower delivery costs, he used to put refrigerator inside residential communities so that customers can pick up the fruits themselves once delivered to the refrigerators.

Over time, he thought “Why not sell things with long shelf life?”

With BingoBox, Zilin says there is a real opportunity to revolutionise the retail experience. “Our strategy is always is try our best to do our own things right and the time will tell.”

“We hope to expand all over the world and provide our solutions to as many people as we can and to make their life better,” says Zilin.

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