The convenience store Cheers opened a new and completely unmanned store in Our Tampines Hub last Saturday (December 12th).
At the Cheers Store, customers can simply walk in, pick up the items they need, and walk out without removing their phones, credit cards, or cash to make payment.
However, before entering the store for the first time, customers must download the Cheers SG app and add their Visa account as a payment method.
You can then use facial recognition technology in the app or scan a unique QR code to enter the store.
Without entering a payment method, customers cannot enter the store.
The app automatically records the items customers pick up and adds them to a virtual shopping cart. Payment for the items will be debited from their Visa cards when they leave the store.
The store's ceiling is also littered with cameras that use artificial intelligence to track human behavior to detect theft.
Not the first unmanned shop here
Unmanned shop at the National University of Singapore / Photo credit: The Ridge SG
The AI-enabled Cheers outlet in Our Tampines Hub is the first to use an advanced AI system and integrate the use of a mobile app.
In order to get the customers used to the technology, a representative will be present to accompany the customers for the next three months before they become completely unmanned.
This high-tech business isn't the only unmanned business in Singapore, however.
The first unmanned and cashless concept store opened in 2017 at Nanyang Polytechnic. Then two more showed up at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Octobox opened its first automated 24/7 store at NUS last year together with OMO Store, an Umart initiative that opened at the NUS School of Computing.
Will we see more unmanned shops in Singapore?
Photo credit: Our Tampines Hub
Although the concept has been making waves in other countries like China since late 2016, it failed to materialize, resulting in many closings and bankruptcies in the industry.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has revived the popularity of such unmanned businesses.
The ability of these businesses to operate autonomously is particularly attractive as human interaction needs to be minimized due to the pandemic.
In addition, the technology facilitates lengthy processes such as inventory checks.
The big data gathered by stores' AI systems is also very valuable to store owners.
Businesses can see exactly which items are popular, what and how much needs refilling, and which areas on the shelves are getting the most attention.
Plus, Singapore consumers are increasingly comfortable with the heavy use of technology, some of which has been accelerated by the pandemic.
Additionally, the Singapore government has long been promoting Singapore's growth as a smart nation and using technology to stay ahead as a global city.
Hence, it is likely that more of these stores will pop up across the country.
Selected image source: Our Tampines Hub