The 2 a.m. convenience store drop-in for late night snacks may be changing before our eyes: No lines. No checkout. No Cashier. Just simply open up an app, scan the barcode of your Snickers Bar and Big Gulp, and walk right out the store. Your credit card gets instantly charged and you have a seamless purchasing experience without interacting with a convenient store clerk.

The Wheelys 247 Concept

Wheelys’, a concept being tested in Shanghai, is the “world’s first app-controlled, staff-free convenience store” that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Conveniently called “Wheelys247,” the Swedish startup wants to incorporate their proprietary retail technology into pre-existing stores throughout the world. As Wheelys so eloquently explained:

“What Uber did for taxis, we do for retail.”

Whether it’s Flippy – the robotic cook designed by Miso Robotics in Pasadena, California or Gordon – the Café X robotic barista in San Francisco – the service industry is starting to incorporate technology into their operations. The end result: reduced labor costs via a self-managing, autonomous purchasing experience.

Swedish startup Wheelys began their journey as an affordable way for shops to sell bikes cheaper. By building a modular bike and renting them out in urban areas, Wheelys became a successful franchise focused on reducing the costs of owning and operating a brick and mortar bike shop. This same blueprint is being used in their Shanghai staff-free convenience store.

Staff-Free Convenience Store

Ideal for busier urbanites that are still roaming the city at all hours, the Wheely247 concept relies on app profiles and security cameras to reduce theft. Since access to the convenience store starts by creating a user profile and is linked to your smartphone, identifying those who grab and run out the store is pretty easy. Those who have been caught grabbing merchandise without scanning, lose their privileges. Not being able to access one of the most convenient ways to grab late night snacks – may not worth the effort – especially considering the price point.

The Shanghai location currently requires its members to sign up on the company’s website – reducing any possibility of theft and at the same time, monitoring customers’ shopping behaviors. According to a recent New Atlas article, the Shanghai store looks like “a giant walk-in vending machine.”

Affordable Convenience

Whether it’s the robotic café in Silicon Valley or the unmanned, app-controlled convenience store in Shanghai, the way we purchase items is changing drastically. As much as these innovative companies claim that their technology is not replacing the clerk or the barista – it’s safe to say that the self-checkout process is a far more affordable option for owners.