Jan. 23, 2018 – After the launch of Alibaba’s smart market, Taocafe, last July, WeChat has followed up with its first smart pop-up store, We Life. The store will be open for 16 days from Jan.20 – Feb. 4 in Shanghai’s MixC Mall.
What does this mean for consumers? No store clerks, no checkout lines, and full-on automation. Users can enter the store by scanning their WeChat QR codes, and can then obtain price information by scanning RFID tagged products.
In this official offline introduction, many features of WeChat will be available including WeChat pay, mini programs, and in-app discounts. The store features an integrative S-type design divided into five 60 square meter themed zones, including food, clothing, housing, transportation and WeChat cartoon related products.
Zhenjie Bai, director of retail operations at WeChat, explained that the items featured in the store are a great opportunity for brand display. The We Life store combines over three hundred trendy and high-end brands including EasyGo and EllE.
Payment and browsing are high-tech and efficient. Each item is marked with an RFID tag. To ‘check out’, consumers stand in the vicinity of a sensor that scans and identifies the products they select. The system, which is capable of sensing dozens of QR codes at once, then tallies customers’ purchases and checks them out via WeChat Pay.
One aspect of the store that lacks such efficiency is entering and exiting. Customers must scan their QR codes to do so – a technology that already seems outdated in The Red Dragon. In a follow-up interview, Zhenjie Bai stated that although the first WeChat pop-up store was limited by space and a quick launch date, facial recognition technology will be used in the future.
Alibaba, Tencent, and JD.com, have all expanded their offline stores in the past year. Alibaba launched Fresh HEMA, Tencent invested in the Yonghui superstore, and JD opened its own market, 7 Fresh. While these three giants work to automate fresh food supermarkets, consumers will have to exercise patience and continue to shop at traditional brick and mortar retail stores.