China Insights

Alibaba unveils staff-less Tao Cafe

Han Yang

Consultant, Market Insights China Lead

Retail 21.07.2017 / 11:30

Tao cafe full

The cashier-free Tao Cafe is opened for a trial on July 8.

Chinese eCommerce giant and data technology provider Alibaba Group has just unveiled a cashier-free retail store.

The online group has joined other retail chains and tech start-ups flocking into the market with their own solutions, making staff-less retail one of the hottest tech trends.

Tao Cafe opened for a trial run on July 8. In the footsteps of the Amazon Go store that made a big debut last year with its use of tracking cameras, it utilizes a facial and voice recognition system.

By scanning a QR code on Taobao APP at the entrance of the store, patrons are tracked with cameras for facial recognition.

After going through the checkout doors, customers will automatically make a purchase through their smartphones without needing to head to a register and be able to leave the store with their items in hand.

AI and data technologies have made it possible for customers to shop at this offline store without queuing to pay.

Amazon Prime Day 2017 Smashes Sales Record

On July 11, Amazon held its third annual Prime Day. The event actually began the evening of July 10 and offered 30 hours of deals instead of the 24 offered in the two prior years.

While Amazon does not release sales figures, the company stated it had record revenue – 60% more than the same 30-hour period in 2016, and more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 combined.

Prime Day 2017, according to Amazon, was the biggest sales day in the company’s history with purchases clocking in at 6,000 items a minute in 13 countries.

International Sales

Third-party sellers sold over 50% more items on the site by noon on July 11 than in the same time frame last year, according to Amazon. Overall, Prime Day sales by third-party merchants increased 30% compared with 2016, thanks to international demand.

Prime Day made its debut in both India and China this year. In China, Amazon faces stiffer competition, especially from Alibaba’s Tmall and from Beijing-based

China’s Prime Day offered 46 hours of sales and featured third-party international brands rather than Amazon-branded products.

The sales value of Amazon China and Amazon Cross-Border Store has an increase of approximately 300% YoY compared with that of last year.

Alipay Brings Rewards to Japan's Lawson

Alibaba Group Holding is teaming up with Lawson to let users of its Alipay online payment platform accumulate and redeem loyalty points through purchases at the convenience store chain's outlets in both Japan and China.

Alibaba Group affiliate and Alipay operator Ant Financial Services Group recently reached an agreement with Lawson to begin promotions at the chain's 13,000 Japanese stores as well as at its roughly 1,000 locations in China.

Beginning July 1, Alipay users will get 1-5% cash back on purchases at Lawson's Japanese stores. Discount coupons that can be used at Alibaba Group's online marketplaces and elsewhere also will be distributed.

The partners will roll out time-limited campaigns just for the months of July and August, when a large number of Chinese tourists travel to Japan. Alipay users will be able to redeem accumulated loyalty points based on a percentage of total purchases in both countries. Rewards accumulated Sundays through Thursdays at Lawson stores in China or Japan can be redeemed Fridays and Saturdays at the chain's locations in either country.

Starting in late July, customers using Alipay at Chinese Lawson stores can receive discount coupons to buy karaage, Japanese fried chicken, at Lawson in Japan. In turn, Alipay users at Lawson's Japanese stores will get a 2-yuan (29 cents) discount coupon for drinks at Chinese locations. This will be Lawson's first promotions designed to attract customers to both Japanese and overseas stores.

Japan will be the first country outside of China where Alipay rolls out such programs. About 500 million people in 27 countries and regions use Alipay to settle payments via a QR code displayed on their smartphone. In China, more than 80% of mobile transactions are completed with Alipay. About 22,000 stores in Japan accept the mobile payment service, including Lawson's 13,000 domestic locations.

JD.Com Partners with Japanese Logistics Firm Yamato to Build Cold Chain Logistics

Chinese eCommerce giant, Inc. has announced the signing of a strategic memorandum of understanding with Yamato Holdings Co., Ltd., a Japanese logistics company, to build a cold-chain logistics network in China for the delivery of chilled and frozen goods.

In addition, the two companies will cooperate to develop technologies for unmanned warehouses, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and big data technologies, according to a company announcement. .

"By expanding our cooperation into areas like cold chain logistics, and leveraging Yamato's reach into international markets beyond Japan, we are making it even easier for our international brand partners to sell to China and tap into JD's base of 236.5 million active customers," said Richard Liu,’s chairman and CEO.

Under the partnership, will use Yamato's logistics network to export Chinese goods to Japan, Southeast Asia and Europe, and Yamato will take advantage of's nationwide logistics network to enhance its own last-mile delivery capability in China.

Yamato launched its chilled and frozen parcel delivery services back in 1988. currently owns 11 warehouses for fresh food and seafood, and offers frozen parcel delivery services in 300 Chinese cities.

The move is the latest in's drive to strengthen its logistics services. Last month, the company announced a partnership with Eastern Airline to cooperate on aviation logistics, passenger service, marketing, membership systems and information infrastructure.


Source: Kantar Retail

Editor's notes

* This article is based on Kantar Retail China Insight team's weekly newsletter (July 21). If you would like to receive Kantar Retail Newsletter, please send your email address to .

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