Ideas 2 Go Explores New Retail

Shanghai delivers a new retail experience that integrates in-store and online shopping.

January 08, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Disruption in the retail environment is so advanced in Shanghai, China, that a term has been coined for it: new retail. But you don’t have to travel to China to see new retail— the seamless integration of in-store and online shopping experiences—in action, especially in a market where mobile devices replace wallets.

The NACS Ideas 2 Go program takes you on a journey to four retailers in Shanghai that demonstrate how new retail is evolving:

  1. At Ratio, a fully automated coffee shop, customers order and pay with their phone through the WeChat app, making cash payments and the checkout line obsolete. Ratio takes new retail a step further by automating the drink-making process with the help of a robot, allowing customers to choose not only the type of coffee but also the exact temperature and taste profile. Ratio serves 400 drinks per day, and more than 50 drinks are on the menu. In the evening, the robot barista becomes a bartender and serves cocktails.
  2. BK24 is a new concept from Buddies that opened in December 2018. The small store, at just 50 square meters, attracts local business people in an upscale downtown neighborhood. Buddies is a subsidiary of the Shanghai Liangyou Group, which operates 520 stores, including 270 franchise stores. BK24 offers lunchbox delivery through a partnership with, where customers can order a lunchbox from their phone, and the hot meal is delivered to their office or home.
  3. More than 100,000 customers fill up every day at uSmile stations in Shanghai, a subsidiary of PetroChina. While cupholders are useful for grab-and-go items, so is the trunk: Gas-buying customers can purchase larger items in bulk like cooking oil and rice at the fuel island. Inside the store, customers will find grab-and-go snacks and drinks, PetroChina’s Duck-branded items and household items like vacuum cleaners. Customers can pay with their phone inside the store for both fuel and in-store items. 
  4. Hema, an Alibaba-owned retailer, creates a unique customer experience: It’s part market, part restaurant, part warehouse and part fulfillment center. The store does not have a traditional checkout area. Instead, self-checkout and kiosks allow customers to pay for items throughout the store with Alibaba’s payment app, Alipay. Most of Hema’s shoppers (60%) place their orders online for delivery. Employees fulfill orders by collecting items throughout the store, while ceiling conveyors move full shopping bags overhead to a common fulfillment area, where an army of electric scooters waits to make deliveries.

To see more, watch the Ideas 2 Go segment, “New Retail in China,” and share the ideas found in the video with your team. NACS also welcomes your ideas! Feel free to email Jeff Lenard at to learn more about participating in Ideas 2 Go.

You can also explore the high-level of innovation taking place in the Asian retail market by attending the NACS Convenience Summit Asia, a unique event taking place March 3-5 in Bangkok, Thailand—the epicenter of retail disruption and innovation.