Think of a grocery store where smart carts follow you around, you pay via facial recognition and goods are delivered within 30 minutes. Say hello to 7Fresh.
JD.com, one of Chinas biggest e-commerce players, has launched its new tech-enabled physical store, 7Fresh, under its JD Fresh banner – one that blends the worlds of online and offline retail.
The 4,000 square foot store, which only opened in Yizhuang, China on Thursday, aims to bring a truly premium blended retail shopping experience to Chinese consumers, with plans to open 1,000 stores over the next five years.
Two of China’s biggest e-commerce players are moving aggressively offline, with technology and experience-rich physical stores. The rivalry is heating up! On the same day of 7Fresh’s launch, Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets announced that it will be opening 30 additional locations in Beijing by the end of 2018, expanding on its current 35 stores.
One of the biggest factors that has driven the remarkable boom in China’s e-commerce sector, is the traditional weakness of the country’s physical store infrastructure, according to JD.
JD has grown to become one of China’s biggest online grocery retailers by offering a quality customer experience online, but unlike other markets in the world, like Australia for instance, where shoppers enjoy going to the supermarkets – in China, premium grocery shopping experiences are mainly available online.
7Fresh’s store focuses on quality and freshness – three quarters of its merchandise are fresh, but it has taken freshness to another level. Eggs, for example, arrive in-store within 12 hours of being laid by chickens, and fresh fish and seafood can be caught from the seas of Japan and delivered to the dinner table in just 24 hours, according to the company, which also offers 30-minute delivery on purchases.
The clean, spacious stores will be stocked with thousands of fresh products, including fruit, baked goods, flowers, imported meat and freshly-caught seafood prepared and cooked on site.
7Fresh integrates several advanced technology elements to deliver a personal and educational hands-on shopping experience for its consumers. For example, “magic mirrors” that sense when customers pick up an item of produce, automatically provides information on a screen about its source, as well as nutritional information, are currently being tested. The stores will also soon feature smart shopping carts that can follow customers around the store as they browse the aisles, allowing them to shop with children, hands-free.
Items can be scanned and bagged through traditional checkout or self-checkout, which uses using a facial recognition system connected to the 7Fresh app. The store also accepts payment via cash, card or mobile payment using the 7Fresh app. Customers in the neighbourhood can either take their goods to go, or opt to have them delivered to their homes in 30 minutes.
The launch of 7Fresh underscores an ongoing revolution of traditional retail powered by e-commerce technology. With an innovative supply chain built from scratch and as a large-scale buyer across many product categories in China, JD has efficient sourcing, storage and logistics operations. This efficiency enables the company to unlock shopping services and experiences like 7Fresh, and many others that were previously difficult to justify under traditional retail models.
JD.com has been offering fresh food online in China since 2012. In January 2016, the company launched JD Fresh as an independent fresh food business unit. With one of China’s largest nationwide cold chain logistics network, operated in-house by a large-scale e-commerce company, down to the last mile, JD Fresh says it’s able to offer rapid delivery of tens of thousands of high-quality fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat and frozen products sourced from over 2,000 partners.
JD is working with a growing number of partners to use blockchain to track every step in the supply chain, from production to delivery. The company recently partnered with Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University to launch the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance, to enhance food tracing, traceability and safety in China.