The future of shopping is here, and it's already in your pocket

Alibaba's lifestyle services affiliate Koubei has started trial operation of a self-service system, taking out the need to line up and see a cashier.
Ti Gong

Alibaba's lifestyle services affiliate Koubei has started trial operation of a self-service system in some of the Shanghai stores of local convenience chain 24 Fresh, allowing customers to scan and pay for items using their own devices, all without having to line up or talk to a cashier.

The service will be rolled out to other retail sectors such as supermarkets and more convenience stores later this year, according to Koubei officials.

By scanning the barcode on each product with one's phone within the store and paying by Alipay, customers can then leave the store without having to take their items to a counter or show anyone a receipt.

By integrating each retailer's merchandising system with Koubei's cashier system, each product's price and discount information is available for consumers by simply scanning the barcode with their smartphone, according to Jim Huang, Koubei's business development director for consumer goods and retail.

Gu Xing, general manager of 24 Fresh, said it introduced the service in order to bring convenience back to consumers, allowing them to save time usually wasted lining up, and letting cashiers dedicate more time to helping customers.

"Setting up self-check out machines is an extra cost and also takes up valuable shopping space in the store, while Koubei's service is easy to adopt without needing to upgrade hardware facilities," he added.

24 Fresh, which is backed by domestic private equity firm Capital Today, now operates 13 stores in Shanghai and hopes to have 25 outlets in the city by the end of this year.

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