Unmanned Convenience Store

With technology, the retail sector can innovate in a challenging environment. In the scenario where you are hungry or thirsty but with no cash, unmanned kiosks can be useful. All you need to do is to scan your palm to unlock the door and access the items, and your mobile wallet will be activated. As all items in the kiosk come with a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag, you’ll be charged once you close the door.

This biometric system is what workers on Jurong Island can access – a 24-hour unmanned convenience store by local company Octobox. The first one was already setup at the National University of Singapore. For security purposes, the biometric system has links to their payment, so they know who is buying what items at which time. Checkout is seamless because cards, cash or even phones are not needed!

The unmanned cashless store is not a new concept in Singapore. Over the last few years, it has become a common feature in many neighbourhoods which Trade and Industry minister, Chan Chun Sing, said could be the way forward.

“It shows the spirit that even in difficult times, and perhaps more so in difficult times, we are still constantly innovating and trying out new solutions. And that gives me confidence that this sector will be in good shape.” – Chan Chun Sing.

To help more businesses innovate to meet changing consumer needs, the Singapore Retailers Association signed deals with two universities to expand training programmes. “How can we get more retailers to understand the new needs, the demographic changes that are occurring, the new opportunities for doing business? And we can do that again, will then enable them to find new businesses.” – Prof Cheong Hee Kiat. These programmes will be useful for this minimart chain which has launched a new unmanned store.

“In these past years we’ve been having problems with, let’s say, hiring of cashiers, labour shortage and all these, these minimarts are usually family businesses owned by different owners. Some of them are becoming aged so it’s harder for them to be always in the store; let alone extend their operation times.” – Ivan Khor, U-Venture Investment. Mr Khor added that it’s unmanned store system could be rolled out to some of it’s minimarts in the future.

This video is a Case Study in the WSQ Productivity and Innovation Strategy course.