Chinese start-up Bingo Box has launched a concept whereby customers can buy around 400 basic supplies at any time of the day or night from an entirely automated container. Auchan China was quick to get on board, and is currently trialling ‘Bingo Box by Auchan’. But what do our experts – Stéphane Joly, Executive Vice-President of Altavia Asia and Jean-Marc Mégnin, CEO at Shoppermind – think of this innovative newcomer?
What is the context of the new retail concept that Bingo Box is offering?
Jean-Marc Mégnin: The internet has led consumers to develop new habits: 24/7 availability has become a prerequisite. Different formats have been tried out in order to meet demand: the Carrefour Market Gourmet outlet in Milan, which is open 24/7, is a good example of this, but paying for staff around the clock is expensive! – then we have Click & Collect, which lets customers order products online and collect them from a locker which can be accessed at any time.
Commercially, this is where Bingo Box fits in, but here we are talking about a proper shop which is entirely automated and where people can go to buy almost 400 basic products (snacks, drinks, chewing gum, condoms, etc.). This concept is consistent with the culture in Asia, where you can always find an open convenience store on any street corner.
Stéphane Joly: Incidentally, if they are rolled out, Bingo Boxes could have an adverse effect on these corner shops, as there are only a few of them managing to make money as it is.
How does a Bingo Box work?
Stéphane Joly: A Bingo Box is a container – or half a container, to be exact – which is fitted with a window and completely staffless. To get in, the consumer scans a QR code with their smartphone (if it is their first visit they will receive a 4 digit code via the Bingo Box micro app, which they will need to input to identify themselves). Products are all fitted with RFID tags, which means that all the customer needs to do when they come to pay is scan their purchases (5 products maximum) on a self-service till, which identifies each product and calculates the total owed. And, since it’s China, payment will – of course! – be made via their smartphone, using either the Bingo Box, Ali Pay or Tel Pay app.
Jean-Marc Mégnin: RFID technology seems to have been used very well here. Unlike at Amazon Go, where they decided not to use these wonderful tags.
Stéphane Joly: It is also extremely secure! When someone enters the Bingo Box, not only is their phone used to identify them, but they are also watched by several cameras with facial and object recognition technology. This makes it impossible to take 5 products off the shelves and only put 3 through the till.
What do you think the benefits are of a commercial offer such as this?
Stéphane Joly: The difference in price! In physical retail you need to pay cashiers, shop floor staff, security guards, and the rest…there is a clear advantage with Bingo Box in that all products are priced between 20 and 25% cheaper than in any other nearby shops! I think this model is very attractive – all the more so given that the cost of a container is very low. I am confident that the concept is going to work, and will be rolled out in China.
Jean-Marc Mégnin: I also find the mobile aspect of the containers to be very smart. The Bingo Box is actually mounted on wheels, so it can easily be moved to different places depending on the season. You can imagine it set up near the beach during the summer, or near a stadium for evenings when there are football matches on. Not only does that mean that it’s hard to get the location wrong, but also that it is cheaper to rent space.
And so Auchan China is ready to go…
Stéphane Joly: Auchan China has actually launched the ‘Bingo Box by Auchan’ label. They have joined a Bingo Box to one of their shops and are trialling another one in a car park belonging to RT Mart, their long-term Taiwanese partner. I know for a fact that the Bingo Box turnover is higher than what Auchan China made with Drive. The concept is going to work, you’ll see!
Photo credits : Stéphane Joly