Smart retailing prospers in China

By Peng Xunwen

China’s retailing industry is becoming more and more digital and intelligent thanks to the rapid development of big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and other frontier technologies. It is interacting with consumers in more diverse ways, such as 24/7 online services, unmanned delivery, and smart lockers.

A man surnamed Wang from Pingshan District, Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province recently placed an order on an online grocery platform after an unmanned delivery vehicle of the platform he ran into the other day aroused his interest.

On a mini-program of the platform, the man bought fruits, fish, vegetables, and edible oil, and these commodities were delivered to him by an unmanned vehicle soon after the order was confirmed.

The vehicle is special in many aspects. Having a capacity of 500 kilograms and a range of 120 kilometers, it can deliver tonnes of products on a daily basis. The smart vehicle can also recognize traffic lights and steer clear of obstacles on its way. Besides, it is also heat-insulated, which ensures that hot and frozen commodities are delivered to consumers at inappropriate temperatures.

Gao Shulin, chairman of the board of the company that owns the grocery platform, said that the company launched such vehicles to build a smart community delivery network.

The company’s attempt is a miniature of Chinese retailers’ efforts to make their businesses smart in recent years.

Smart retailing is a service that can sense consumer habits, predict consumption trends, and guide production with the help of the internet, the internet of things, and other frontier technologies. It provides diverse and individualized products and services for consumers.

Unattended convenient stores, stores on mini-programs, virtual reality-powered fitting rooms, autopilot delivery vehicles, and smart delivery are all within the scope of smart retailing.

“By using big data, smart retailing offers individualized services for consumers and gives data feedback to the purchasing and delivery sectors to make production and supply more efficient,” said Peng Jianzhen, secretary-general of the China Chain Store Franchise Association.

Apart from unmanned delivery vehicles, smart lockers are also frequently seen today.

A woman surnamed Chen from Changzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province recently found a new function of the smart lockers in her residential complex. Besides storing express delivery parcels and food delivered by couriers, these lockers can also be used as temporary storage for chilled products.

Emerging as a new form of contactless delivery service amid the pandemic, these lockers are able to recognize, store, monitor, and manage the stuff inside them based on cloud computing and internet of things technologies.

Cloud Box, the company that runs the lockers, has also launched e-commerce services to better satisfy the rising consumer demands for a “stay-at-home economy.” Residents can buy vegetables, fruits, seafood, and ready-to-cook food on the company’s e-commerce mini-program, fetch their orders from the lockers on the next day, or have the products delivered to their doorsteps by property management staff.

In recent years, consumers have been enjoying increasingly more scenarios of contactless delivery thanks to the development in computer vision, big data, robotics, and voice recognition technologies.

Experts believe that the implementation of smart retailing is a test for the capability of internet infrastructure construction, such as the popularization of 5G and large-scale connection of the internet of things. Big data processing, Hash rate, and algorithms need to be constantly enhanced to better match consumers and commodities. Besides, both hardware and software must be popularized.

As the factors of consumers, commodities, and warehouses become more connected and integrated, smart retailing will only release more energy.

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