It seems the cash register-free supermarket is the next big trend for many companies: Amazon and Albert Heijn now face competition from Chinese Alibaba, which just launched its own formula.
Alibaba opened the Tao Café in Hangzhou, where customers can pay for their purchases thanks to a QR code scanned at the entrance. As soon as they leave the store with items, they are immediately paid. The 200 sqm store uses several technologies to track both the customer and the items, which limits the number of customers to fifty at a time.
The trial will only last five days and is meant to see which errors occur during the checkout phase of the shopping experience. The wrong customer was tagged in 0.02 % of cases and in 0.1 % of the transactions, the system failed to register the right item.
Alibaba is not the first and definitely will not be the last company to trial a cash register-free store. Amazon and its Amazon Go store are one of the pioneers, although the formula needs to tackle several issues first. Albert Heijn also wants to launch a cash register-free version of its AH to Go stores in the near future.
Alibaba wants to expand the system, creating a “smart store” that alters its product range depending on the customer.