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Circle K and JD.com partnership introduces “A.I. Retailing Zone” self-checkout

Fung Retailing Group’s convenience store brand Circle K has unveiled its AI-powered checkout solution, featuring image recognition technology which enables customers to complete the self-checkout process within seconds by scanning the physical products themselves rather than barcodes.

The AI-powered checkout solution is a result of the strategic partnership between Fung Retailing Group and JD.com signed in 2018. At the “A.I. Retailing Zone” in the store, customers can complete the checkout process in just four seconds in three steps:

  • Place products on the smart checkout counter
  • Press the A.I.Recognition (A.I.R.) button on the cashier screen to scan the products
  • Complete payment with an Octopus card.

Sabrina Fung, group managing director of Fung Retailing Group, pointed out that by leveraging the image recognition technology, the checkout counter can recognise products without any barcode, RFID, or packaging, such as fresh bread. There is also no restriction on how the products have to be placed on the checkout counter.

Bowen Zhou, vice president of JD.com and head of JD’s AI platform and research, explained that the AI algorithm behind the solution enables the checkout counter to recognise up to five products within one second with an accuracy rate of over 97%, reducing the overall in-store checkout time by 30%.

He added that the system currently can recognise over 500 stock keeping units (SKU). The staff is able to add new products into the system by using the same checkout machine to scan products. Data will be updated in the system within one day.  

Zhou said, “AI will continue to play a critical role in transforming the retail landscape. Retailers who are able to capitalise on this trend will have a competitive edge among their peers. Leveraging Fung Retailing’s offline retail expertise and JD.com’s leading retail technology, this pilot project represents a critical first step in collectively realising our vision for smarter and more convenient retail.”

This technology is currently installed at the A.I.Retailing Zone in two Circle K stores, one located at Cheung Sha Wan, and the other one in Causeway Bay. Fung said it is a pilot test experiment, the company will decide whether expanding this project to other branches or not after collecting the data and feedback from customers.  

“This is an important milestone for Fung Retailing as the first in the industry to unveil the first AI-powered checkout pilot experience in a convenience store environment,” Fung said. “This underscores our on-going commitment to experiment with new technologies like AI and to build partnerships like the one with JD.com to enhance the end-customer experience, further transforming the future of retail for Greater China.”

The AI-powered checkout solution is the second pilot test experiment of the AI Boundaryless Retail Center, composed of AI and retail technology experts from Fung Retailing Group and JD.com.

Another project from the AI partnership between Fung Retailing Group and JD.com is the facial recognition-enabled smart displays which are currently being trailed at two stores of one of the fashion retail brands under Fung Retailing Group in Shanghai, China. The facial-recognition experiment was to enhance the consumer experience by providing better insights on product preferences to the retailer, to improve the quality of personalised product recommendations for customers.

From left to right: Victor Fung, group chairman of Fung Group, Sabrina Fung, group managing director of Fung Retailing Ltd., Bowen Zhou, vice president of JD.com and head of JD’s AI platform and research and Richard Yeung, CEO of Circle K Convenience Stores (HK) Ltd

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