In other countries, there are already businesses that do almost without personnel. A model that can also be implemented here?

What sounds like science fiction has long since become reality these days: shops that (almost) manage without a staff. There are already a handful of suppliers on the global market who are now striving for expansion after successful test operations.

Various systems enable purchasing around the clock

The Internet group Amazon recently caused a sensation when it launched the first branch of its personnel-free Amazon Go store concept in Seattle. In order to shop there, an Amazon customer account and an additional Amazon Go app are required. The scan of a QR code generated on the mobile phone provides access to the shop. From there, cameras take over the further tracking of the customer and register exactly which goods he takes out. There is no need to pay at a checkout – customers simply walk out of the store with their purchases. The invoice is sent by e-mail within a few minutes and the credit card stored in the customer account is debited with the invoice amount. Amazon now operates six Amazon Go stores in the USA and, according to media reports, the Internet giant plans to increase its number of stores to 3,000 by 2021.

The unmanned X-Mart store concept of the Chinese Internet company works in a similar way. There are already 20 unmanned X-Marts in China. In Indonesia, recently opened the first X-Mart outside China that relies entirely on face recognition and RFID technology. As with Amazon Go, customers must have a customer account from the company’s own payment system. Access to the market is also similar to Amazon Go, but the customer is additionally identified by facial recognition. All goods removed from the shelf have an RFID chip, which is assigned to the JD-ID at the checkout terminal together with another facial analysis. This in turn debits the credit card stored in the customer account.

Systems also conceivable in Germany?

In Germany, too, there are already possibilities of how store concepts can get by almost without personnel. Jörn Leogrande, Executive Vice President of the e-payment payment service provider Wirecard, is certain that the retail trade will experience a massive digital change in the coming years. With the development of its Internet of Things (IoT) shelf, the company is showing what this can look like. To add items to their shopping cart, customers need only stand in front of the shelf, have their face identified by the biometric recognition system and select the desired products. The shelf automatically recognizes which products have been removed. The virtual shopping cart and the payment process are displayed in real time on the screen above the IoT shelf.

The specialist dealer for assembly and fastening materials Würth uses a similar system for its first Würth24 branch, in which craftsmen and fitters can still shop after closing time – at least from Monday to Saturday. A QR code generated via the Würth app also enables access here, but the goods are only recorded by a tunnel scanner on the checkout conveyor. With the subsequent printing of the delivery note, the purchase is complete. Thus it is also possible for specialist companies to obtain spare parts outside regular opening hours – for example in the case of emergency services.

Retailers and consumers can benefit equally

It is not only in the B2B sector that there is an obvious need to purchase products outside opening hours. In the B2C sector too, both retailers and consumers could benefit equally. For example, unmanned shop concepts in structurally weak regions could take over the supply of everyday consumer goods. The necessary technology would be problematic in this context – because not every consumer has modern smartphones.

There is no doubt that there will be revolutionary changes in the world of shopping in the future. Whether this will also be the case in Germany in the foreseeable future cannot yet be estimated. First of all, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent corresponding concepts will be accepted by consumers in Germany.


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