Top 10 news of 2018 in China’s wine market

9. Alibaba launches unstaffed wine store

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba pushed its unstaffed, cashless experiment a step further when it launched a completely automated, cashier-less wine storage and retail store in its home base Hangzhou that allows customers to purchase wines by the case without paying any cash or interacting with any sales staff.

The company also debuted an automated wine bar at Vinexpo in Hong Kong last year.

A bevy of Chinese tech companies including Alibaba’s rivals JD.com, Suning and BingoBox have launched their own versions of unmanned cashless stores in mainland China, where e-payment method using QR codes has become widespread, thanks to WeChat and AliPay.

This interaction-free buying behaviour will certainly open up more opportunities for mobile commerce and e-commerce, since the country has over one billion smartphone users, and more than 533 million online shoppers.

But it also begs the question if professional advice from staff and sommeliers will matter that much in the long run in the interaction-free context? Consequently, will brands with proven recognition, smart branding and eye-catching packaging trump wine recommendations?

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