COO Mark den Butter and CMO Kayee Tjahjadi-Lam leave Ochama barely a year after Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com started its Dutch online supermarket trial. What does this mean for the planned European expansion?
The departure of both top-level managers is a major setback for Ochama, as they were both the face of JD.com’s ambitious European plans from the start in January 2022. “It was a really cool adventure to start a new company from scratch”, Den Butter writes on his LinkedIn page, adding that he is immediately available for a new challenge.
Tjahjadi-Lam, another person who was at Ochama from the start, leaves the company as well. This double setback highlights the problems Ochama has with penetrating the European market, despite the huge firepower that its Chinese owner can supply. While JD.com is has no equal when it comes to AI and retail logistics automation, it has problems applying these advantages on the front-end. The company has a huge automated warehouse in the Netherlands, with a lot of orderpicking robots – but also a substantial surplus in capacity.
To Belgium, in Chinese
JD.com now hopes it can start supplying fulfilment for other retailers, and has struck deals with the likes of Hunkemoller and Blokker. Ochama’s webshop already offers non-food products provided by Blokker, while future plans would also let customers collect their Ochama orders in Blokker stores as well. Currently, Ochama only has four own click&collect points and customers can get their orders delivered at home – excluding the substantial offer in frozen products.
Since August, the Chinese web supermarket also delivers orders to Belgium, France and Germany. For these countries as well, frozen foods are not available. Surprisingly, for a country that boasts its online credentials, there was no mention of this expansion – apart from a Chinese-language post on Wechat, China’s answer to Whatsapp.
Chinese consumers mainly
Ochama finds it hard to find a way to European customers, currently catering mostly for Chinese consumers in Europe. This is not helped by the fact that the presentation is quite chaotic for European standards, showing sports bras and rice cookers in between instant noodles and dumplings. Search filters are rather limited, while the product range on offer focuses on temporary discounted items and bargains.
The expectation that Dutch shoppers would come to Ochama for their weekly groceries, as Den Butter boasted at the company’s launch, seems idle hope at best for now. Losing two Dutch C-level managers is probably not a coincidence, but rather a statement about Ochama’s European success.
If you want to know more about Ochama’s owner JD.com and about how Chinese e-commerce giants are targetting the European markets, you can find all about it in our new book The Future of Shopping: Re-set Re-made Re-tail, which has just been nominated for the PIM Marketing Literature Prize 2022.