With convenience stores leading the way in unmanned stores, planners see scope for similar formats in the wider retail sector.
At the Singapore Retail Industry Conference and Exhibition 2019 yesterday, three home-grown retailers showcased new concepts using technology such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), cashless payments and artificial intelligence (AI) that let shoppers enter stores and buy items without having to interact with a salesperson.
The companies - Pick & Go, Octobox and OMO Store - developed their innovative ideas with support from government agency Enterprise Singapore.
Mr Alan Yeo, director of the retail and design division at Enterprise Singapore, said unmanned stores deliver a fresh experience for customers while boosting productivity by reducing the manpower traditionally needed to run the stores.
The stores said inventory management, cashiering and cash counting can be automated, improving productivity by more than 50 per cent. Intelligent analytics can be used to map shopper habits and enable retailers to adapt product mix, displays and layouts.
Mr Yeo said: "While convenience store operators are leading the adoption of the unmanned store format, we see potential for such retail formats to be successfully adopted by retailers."
At Octobox's unmanned store, customers scan their palms to get inside. When they have chosen their items, they go into a check-out room which automatically detects the RFID tags on their purchases. To pay, customers use their DBS PayLah wallet.
In a press release, Octobox managing director Jeffrey Sun said: "Unmanned stores are the future of retail, and Octobox is excited to be growing this new concept and delivering interesting retail experiences to consumers in Singapore."
The company opened its first store at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) University Town earlier this month, and plans to open a second one on Jurong Island this year.
OMO Store will open a store at NUS' School of Computing next month, while Pick & Go will open one at the Singapore University of Technology and Design in October.
Analysts say for more retailers to set up unmanned stores, successful pioneers will need to lead the way.
Mr Amos Tan, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, said: "There will definitely be interest in these new unmanned convenience stores. Other businesses will be watching and if these new stores are successful, then others will be more ready to adopt these technologies."