Bingobox raises funds for expansion
A Chinese chain of self-service convenience stores powered by artificial intelligence, Bingobox, has raised more than RMB100 million (US$14.7 million) in its first round of funding.
With innovative technologies, the stores aim to reduce staffing costs and are expanding in big cities across China.
Bingbox partnered with French retail firm Auchan to launch a trial in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, last August before opening its first store in Shanghai last month.
To gain access to the stores, customers scan a QR code. Once inside the 51 sqft (4.7 sqm) store, shoppers can choose from products ranging from umbrellas to sushi lunchboxes. When they are ready to check out, they take the items to an automated checkout counter and pay using a digital wallet app on their smartphones.
As an anti-theft measure, all shoppers must pass a full-body scan before the doors will open to let them leave.
While each store is unmanned, a customer support line is available via video link.
Each Bingobox store is mobile, so the franchise owner can put it where they like. A staff member is needed for stock-taking and refilling, which the startup claims can be done in just 20 minutes. Auchan is helping handle store inventory.
Bingobox is trying to woo franchise owners with the promise that only four staffers are needed to run 40 stores.
“We’ve created a deep-learning team to study item-recognition technologies and algorithms,” says Bingobox co-founder Chen Zilin. “By optimising the algorithms and holding numerous training sessions, we have the scanner recognising more than 200 products.”
Bingobox plans to use the raised funds to open 5000 stores this year across China.