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EMAILED ON December 21, 2017 BY Wes Schlagenhauf

Unmanned brick-and-mortars: the new corporate rat race

There’s a new gimmick in town, and it’s looking to bring back the floundering brick-and-mortar with the same companies who disrupted it in the first place.

All by way of the “unmanned convenience store” — a retail space devoid of human employees.

China’s leading the pack

Amazon announced the concept of an unmanned convenience store little over a year ago and has since opened up a trial location in Seattle called AmazonGo — though Go, and competing tech from Walmart, has been plagued by some major technology hiccups.

But in China, the concept is moving at a quicker pace.

Alibaba (China’s largest retailer) already has its own hypermarket development — and just yesterday, their competitor, JD.com, announced they’ve graduated from unmanned trial shops and plan to open hundreds of stores in the near future.

OK, but… how’s it work?

The idea is for customers to walk into a store, shop, and pay for the items via mobile app without ever waiting in line. And according to reports, JD has tech that is flat out better than everyone else’s. 

Using facial and image recog-tech on the store ceilings, JD.com’s AI brick-and-mortars track customer movement and product selection, allowing them to personalize consumer shopping preferences over time.

JD.com is so far ahead of the autonomous grocery store game, they’re already planning a licensing strategy to third-party retailers, which would only add to their already HUGE legless leg up in the race.

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