The future of food retail is to be found in China. Following Alibaba, major competitor JD.com has also opened its technologically advanced supermarket: 7Fresh uses eCommerce technology and aims to open 1,000 stores.
Autonomous shopping carts
7Fresh’ first store recently opened in Beijing’s Dazu Plaza Shopping Center, near JD.com’s headquarters. The 4,000 sqm store gets 75 % of its turnover from fresh food, including imported food that many Chinese customers consider to be rather exclusive items: Spanish Iberic ham, Japanese seafood or French pastries. If customers desire, these fresh products can be processed in the store’s restaurant, which is the store’s way to combine retail and food service.
The store also uses “big data analytics” to match its product range to the consumers’ desires. Advanced technology has to help the chain provide a personal and educational store experience. Magic mirrors automatically display where a product hails from and about the nutritional value it contains, not too dissimilar from Coop’s technology used in Milan in 2016.
Soon, these stores will also have smart shopping carts that will guide the customer through the store autonomously, allowing them to shop hands-free and without having to focus on their purchases. A mobile app and digital payment technology will take care of the scanning and payment procedures. 7Fresh also delivers orders at home, often within thirty minutes, if you live within a 5-kilometer radius of the store.
7Fresh targets 1,000 stores across China, all planned in a three to five year period. It seems that will put it in an arms race with Alibaba’s technological supermarket, Hema. The latter already has 25 stores and aims to open about thirty in 2018.
The 7Fresh launch is JD.Com’s way of showing how traditional retail currently moves forward thanks to eCommerce technology. Chinese immense eCommerce boom is largely thanks to a weak physical store network, which is currently being remedied. The retailer boast its most efficient purchase, store and logistic operations in China, with a guaranteed cold chain until the last mile.
JD.Com also collaborates with a growing number of partners to use blockchain technology in every step of its supply chain – from manufacturing to delivery. One important thing to remember: one of JD.com’s major shareholders is American Walmart.