In partnership with VISA, Cheers under the NTUC FairPrice Co-operative has just opened a new unmanned convenience store at Our Tampines Hub on 12 December 2020.

NTUC FairPrice Co-operative has always been placing the people at its heart, leveraging on technology to innovate further, reaching out to people of all walks of lives through different geographical locations with their different retail formats.

This unmanned Cheers store requires customers to download the Cheers SG App and add their VISA details as the mode of payment before entering the store.

cheers unmanned store entrace

The entrance of Cheers Unmanned Store at Our Tampines Hub

What’s the new retail experience about?

Upon entering the store, customers would need to scan a QR code or use facial recognition technology to identify themselves. They can then walk in to grab any items that they need and walk out freely. The payment will be automatically deducted from the Cheers SG App upon exit. This is a contrast from the usual shopping experience where you will meet retail assistants or queue to make payment at the cashier counter.

Below is the shopping guide:

shopping guide cheer unmanned store

Please take note that you will need to return the items to their respective shelves if you do not want to purchase them. Customers are also warned not to pass items to other customers while in the store.

Check out my purchase status:

complete history cheers unmanned store

This is my purchase:

purchased items cheers unmanned store

Exterior view of Cheers unmanned store:

exterior look of cheers unmanned store-resized

The whole experience was seamless and surreal with this being the first time I have ever encountered grabbing items and leaving without the intentional effort to make my purchase. Thankfully, there were three staff from Cheers guiding the customers to facilitate the digital process.

 

Unmanned vs human touch

Cheers unmanned store at Our Tampines Hub is not the convenience store’s first unmanned outlet. Its first few outlets are located in Nanyang Polytechnic and National University of Singapore (NUS). Other vendors, such as the Pick n Go in Singapore University of Technology and Design and the OMO Store by Umart in NUS, also operate the unmanned store concept.

With the national movement towards a smart nation where people will be empowered to integrate technology into daily lives, more introduction of new technologies will arise throughout the years. COVID-19 has accelerated the usage of technology where everyone has to use Safe Entry and/or TraceTogether to enter any premises.  Retailers are also encouraged to have cashless payment during this period to avoid any physical contact. Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) Multipurpose Society Co-operative Limited introduced PayNow in their Co-op shop for students to make payment on top of using their ez-link card as form of digital payment.

ACSI student using ez-link card

ACSI student using his ez-link card as a form of payment for his purchase. This was introduced before the COVID-19 period to leverage on the use of technology.

ACSI PayNOW

Check out the PayNow’s function at ACSI Co-op Shop which was introduced due to COVID-19 measures.

With the rise in digital payment, it will be not surprising to see various unmanned stores springing up in every part of Singapore.

The convenience that these unmanned retail experience bring can yield greater profit for the store as they allow extraction of big data to analyse the consumers’ preference and buying demands of products. It also helps to reduce the manpower costs as there is no need to have staff around the store. All the movement of the customers are tracked by the sensors, even the items that customers hold onto are also being tracked so that it can be translated into the payment process after the customers exit the store.

However, the technologies involved in operating an unmanned store are usually costly. The challenges faced can be the fact that customers cannot pass items among each other, if not, the payment can be charged wrongly due to the lack of ability to recognise the customers. If the system or internet is down at the store, there isn’t anyone who can assist manually to make the payment immediately which might frustrate the customers who are on the go. Furthermore, the use of data to track the customers might be invasive to the privacy of customers who might receive more re-targeting marketing advertisements to their social media platforms or email.

On the other hand, having someone in a store to greet you when you first enter, assist you immediately when you need clarification for certain products or services and fulfill your buying experience by inviting you to visit the store again will allow you to leave your shopping experience with greater satisfaction than a “silent” shopping experience.

I am a frequent user of online shopping platforms as it offers the convenience and efficiency of buying products without the need to travel. You can purchase products at your fingertips and have them delivered to you usually without any hassle. However, I will still prefer the human touch experience and interaction with people. There are many experiences I will miss having, like trying out clothings immediately at a physical store instead of waiting for it to arrive, trying it and realising they do not fit well. Look at the online blogshops which are successful when they start out solely online, why will they choose to open a brick-and-mortar shops eventually to aid in their online business even though their online businesses are thriving? Perhaps, they do know the fact that people do desire to try their products in-store!

The Cheers unmanned store’s experience gave me a glimpse of the future retail experience. It will be totally unmanned after three months of having staff to guide the customers. I look forward to another visit in April to immerse in the fully unmanned store experience.

Leaving you a question to ponder: “Unmanned or human touch, which retail experience do you prefer?”

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