Alibaba’s cashier-less convenience store is another high-tech attempt to shape the future of offline retail

No need to queue anymore.

By Georgina Lu | August 1, 2017

In China, first they went cashless, and then they went cashier-less.

China e-commerce behemoth Alibaba launched its experimental unmanned convenience store, Tao Cafe (淘宝会员店) in Hangzhou, China last month, with features rivaling that of Amazon’s Go grocery store.

Many will applaud Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma for his courage, because this is, after all, the country where a disturbing number of rental bikes and umbrellas went missing.

Will Alibaba’s unmanned, self-service convenience stores work in China?

The store design looks promising.

Only registered members of online shopping website Taobao (淘宝) can enter Tao Cafe by scanning their QR codes at the gate. This means that all customers are linked to a traceable account.

The store is also equipped with biometric systems and facial recognition technology. Customers can just pick up their shopping items and once ready, head for the exit.

Before that, they will enter the check-out zone, which is the most striking feature of the store.

Customers do not have to manually scan each item. Instead, they simply have to walk through a “check out gate” where items are automatically scanned and charged directly to their online account.

Thanks to facial recognition technology, customers would be charged individually even if more than one person walks through the “check out gate”.

Watch from (0:19) to see the checkout process:

Using big data technology and artificial intelligence, there is intense competition among global e-commerce merchants to enhance the retail experiences of consumers, while optimising the mix of offline outlets and online stores.

So far, Alibaba has not released any information on the time frame for the roll out of Tao Cafe, but it is unlikely that it will be available in Singapore any time soon.

Nevertheless, the power of technology is something we could all marvel at.

Top photo via

About Georgina Lu

Georgina was made in China but parachuted into Singapore. She is currently buried in grad school readings in the heartland of America. When she's free, she watches stand-ups while eating Chinese takeout. She also misses chicken rice.

Morning Commute

Interesting stories to discuss with your colleagues in office later