‘Night-time unmanned stores are in operation.’
At 9 pm on the 14th, at the LG Best Shop Seocho Main Store in Seocho-gu, Seoul, the banner was hung with the lights on. Normally it would have been closed, but as LG Electronics started operating the ‘Night Unmanned Store’ on May 26, customers can freely browse the store even at night time. The nighttime unmanned store operation hours were originally from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, but it was shortened to 10 p.m. in accordance with the government’s guidelines for strengthening quarantine measures against the coronavirus.
To enter an unmanned store, a kind of ‘passing procedure’ is required. If you scan the QR code at the entrance of the store with your mobile phone, you will be asked to verify your identity and fill out a self-diagnosis sheet for COVID-19. The moment the process was completed, the previously closed store door opened automatically.
Upon entering the store, there is a kiosk for information in the lounge on the first floor. By touching the phrase ‘Welcome to the LG Electronics Best Shop Seocho Main Store’, you can check various information about where the necessary home appliances are located as well as information on each store floor.
When I went up to the second floor, I realized that there were no staff. It felt special, as if the entire store had been chartered. The best thing was that I could freely browse the products without being noticed. Normally, I felt pressured to inspect the products carefully because I was keeping an eye on the employees. In the unmanned store, I was able to browse the products as much as I wanted without being restricted by anyone.
Information kiosks were installed throughout the store, and the self-driving robot ‘Chloe’ was also walking around the store with a catalog, so there was no inconvenience in obtaining product information. There was also a ‘Nighttime Unmanned Store Product Experience Guide’ for customers who are unsure of which products to see and how to view them. Following the guide, I tried the cordless vacuum cleaner and robot vacuum cleaner I was interested in. In addition, it was possible to experience the 20-minute rapid course by putting the clothes I wore in the styler, so I was able to directly check the performance using the cardigan I brought.
It was not possible to purchase the product on the spot. You must apply for a consultation appointment through the kiosk and visit again later. However, for office workers who have difficulty finding time on weekdays, nighttime stores have more advantages than disadvantages.
Park Mo (32), a 30-year-old office worker who visited the store that day, said, “I need to prepare for a coma before getting married, but it’s not easy to find time because I work on weekdays. It’s comfortable,” he said.
LG Best Shop’s unmanned stores include 6 stores in Seoul, including Gangseo Main Store, Geumcheon Main Store, Bongcheon Store, Bulgwang Main Store, Ssangmun Main Store, and Seocho Main Store, as well as Bupyeong-gu Office in Incheon, Ilsan Main Store in Gyeonggi, and Sasang Main Store in Busan. . LG Electronics plans to increase unmanned stores and operating hours in the future by analyzing customer reactions and operating results from various angles.
Large corporations, unmanned ‘wind’ to the telecommunication industry
As untact (non-face-to-face) culture is spreading due to COVID-19, unmanned stores are becoming ‘routine’ in Korea. In the past, convenience stores have introduced unmanned systems using kiosks, mainly in the distribution industry, but they prefer non-face-to-face, including the recent development of digital technology such as AI and the MZ generation (born in the 1980s and 2000s), who have rapidly emerged as the main consumer group. Unmanned technology is permeating the entire industry, from large corporations to the telecommunication industry, as consumers’ tastes are intertwined.
According to industry sources on the 16th, Hyundai Motor Company has been operating the ‘Night Untact Exhibition Center’ since last year in line with this non-face-to-face trend. It is a first in the domestic automobile industry. If you visit Hyundai Motor’s Songpa-daero branch between 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm on weekdays and 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm on weekends, you can freely ride the vehicle at an exhibition hall without dealers like LG Best Shop and take free certification shots. can There is no response staff to explain the car, but by scanning the QR code provided on each vehicle, you can check detailed information such as specifications and prices. In addition, Hyundai Motor’s AI service robot ‘DAL-e’ is resident to help guide the store.
The telecommunication industry is also competing to provide non-face-to-face services. LG U+ opened the first unmanned store ‘U+ Untact Store’ in Jongno-gu, Seoul in March. “In a situation where they are reluctant to contact others, the non-face-to-face purchasing patterns of the MZ generation are becoming clearer,” said Lim Kyung-hoon, head of LG Uplus’ consumer sales division. We are now releasing a completely independent untact store.”
SK Telecom also introduced an unmanned store that handles all business non-face-to-face at T Factory in Hongdae, Seoul in October last year, and KT has also been operating ‘KT Self Lounge’, a hybrid unmanned store in Dongseong-ro, Daegu, since January. KT plans to open its second store within this year. In these stores, customers can use self-opening services such as comparing new mobile phone products, applying for subscription, selecting a rate plan, and selecting additional service benefits.
Demand for unmanned and hybrid stores also in the retail industry↑
The retail industry, which has introduced unmanned systems for a long time, such as convenience stores and fast food franchises, is further strengthening its unmanned systems.
According to Transparency Market Research, a global market research firm, the global kiosk market is expected to grow from $1.1 billion (KRW 1.257 trillion) in 2019 to $2.4 billion (KRW 2.743 trillion) in 2027, growing at a CAGR of 10%.
Fast food companies are actively using kiosks. According to industry sources, McDonald’s has installed kiosks in 280 places, or 70% of its 400 stores. KFC achieved this for the first time among major franchises in 2018, a year after it announced that it would introduce kiosks to all stores nationwide in 2017. Burger King has also introduced kiosks in more than 90% of its stores nationwide. Shinsegae Food has installed kiosks in all stores of No Brand Burger.
The convenience store industry also plans to continuously increase the number of unmanned stores and hybrid stores. CU is operating one unmanned store and 270 hybrid stores as of March. Hybrid stores are intermediate between regular stores and unmanned stores, with employees resident only during the daytime and switching to a self-checkout system at night. CU plans to open an additional 100 unmanned and hybrid stores this year. The number of unmanned and hybrid stores operated by GS25 also increased nearly fourfold in one year to 430. GS25 also plans to expand the number of stores to 600 by the end of the year. E-Mart 24 is operating 150 hybrid stores out of a total of 5,500 stores.
Department stores are also taking new initiatives in line with the trend of unmanned. Hyundai Department Store recently opened ‘Uncommon Store’, the first unmanned automatic payment store in The Hyundai Seoul, which opened in Yeouido, Seoul. It was created based on the research technology of Hyundai Department Store such as Amazon Web Services (AWS)-based application technology, AI, and machine learning. Similar to Amazon Go, when entering through a QR code, 40 AI cameras, 150 weight sensors, and 200 microcomputers track customer movement and product movement. When a customer picks up an item and leaves, payment is automatically made.
Kim Jun-yeon, senior researcher at the Software Policy Research Institute, said, “The development of digital technology along with the spread of COVID-19 and the demand for cost reduction due to the increase in the minimum wage are accelerating the trend of unmanned business in the business. It will rapidly emerge as a new sales method to make up for customer contact points in the market.”
The first US ‘Amazon Go’… When you walk out with your stuff, it’s over.
Unlike Korea, where unmanned stores are gaining momentum in recent years, unmanned stores have been craze in foreign countries such as the United States and China for a long time. It was the American ‘Amazon Go’ that opened the door to unmanned stores. Amazon Go is an unmanned grocery store operated by Amazon, the world’s largest logistics company. In December 2016, the first store opened on the first floor of the Amazon headquarters building in Seattle, USA, ‘Day One’. After more than a year of pilot operation for employees, it was officially opened to the public in January 2018. Currently, there are about 30 stores across the United States.
The core of Amazon Go is ‘Just Walk Out’ technology, which combines computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning algorithms. In other words, you just have to pack the things you need and walk out. There is no need to stand in line or go through a cashier or kiosk payment to check out. When a customer enters by scanning a QR code, the cameras connected to the network installed on the ceiling of the store automatically detect the product selected by the customer while grasping the customer’s movement from various angles. When a customer places an item in the shopping cart, it is automatically calculated. If you put an item back on the shelf while shopping, it will be deducted from the count. When the customer leaves the store with the final product selected, payment is made with the credit card linked to the application.
In China, as the minimum wage has steadily risen and the proportion of the elderly population has increased, unmanned stores have been rapidly activated. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, launched ‘Tao Cafe’, an unmanned convenience store based on artificial intelligence (AI), big data, self-sensing sensor, machine learning, location tracking, image and voice recognition, etc. as one of its distribution businesses in July 2017. has launched In the same way as Amazon Go, after selecting a product, entering the checkout counter, holding an item, the machine scans the product and proceeds with payment.
Bingo Box, an unmanned convenience store that operates 24 hours a day, is also increasing the number of stores mainly in Shanghai, China. Bingo box can be installed and moved anywhere in a space of 15㎡ regardless of location. All products in convenience stores have RFID tags, so when a consumer selects a product and places it at the checkout counter, the information and price of the product are displayed on the monitor, and payment can be made with a mobile phone through an electronic payment solution.
[ⓒ 세계일보 & Segye.com, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지]
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