From the self-service to the mobile supermarket: the shopping revolution

Back in 1916, while the Great War was raging in Europe, Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis (Tennessee), the first store of a small chain of grocery shops. Nothing unusual, except for a detail, namely the introduction of the self-service: for the first time ever, customers would serve themselves and then pay at the till. The supermarket was thus born: a small revolution!

100 years later, near the campus of the University of Hefei, in China, the first Moby Store comes to life, the mobile supermarket owned by the Swedish brand Wheelys. Consumers have access to the store by scanning a QR Code on their iPhone and are welcomed by a hologram with female connotations; to buy products, they just need to scan the bar code of each product via an app that is connected to their bank details.

But why did the Swedish chain decide to test its Moby Store precisely in the Far East? Firstly, for its huge population but, mostly, for the Chinese people’s habit of shopping from their smartphone. According to the Better Than Cash Alliance Association, which has been engaged for years in promoting digital payments, in 2016 about 60% of transactions – about 175 million a day!!! – processed by the Chinese application Alipay were made from a mobile phone.

The next step for Wheelys is to improve store safety. It is no coincidence that the brand has partnered with the University of Hefei to develop a biometric recognition system that is activated also when the customer is moving. As soon as a product is taken from the shelf, the recognition system frames the consumer’s face, recognising his ID previously created via the app. Consideration is also paid to personal privacy: once payment is completed, the biometric information collected by the system is automatically deleted!