Will JD.com’s robotic shops shake up retailing in the West?
The Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has opened two robotic stores in the Netherlands with plans to add two more. The debut of the stores, which merge online ordering with in-store pickup, marks the company’s first foray into Europe.
The stores operating under the ochama banner, said to be a combination of “omnichannel” and “amazing”, will enable consumers to order both food and non-food items through a shopping app.
The stores include an automated warehouse where customers can watch robotic arms and automated ground vehicles work together to pick, sort and transfer ordered merchandise. Shoppers scan a code on their mobile app and can then watch as their orders are brought to them via a conveyor belt in the store’s showroom.
“With rich experience in retail and cutting-edge logistics technologies that the company has accumulated over the years, we aspire to create an unprecedented shopping format for customers in Europe with better price and service,” Pass Lei, general manager of ochama, JD Worldwide, said in a statement.
Mark den Butter, chief operating officer for ochama, said that making full use of the logistics and supply chain technologies will enable it to cut prices by an additional 10 percent.
Customers can currently pick up their orders from the shops in Leiden and Rotterdam. Two others are planned for Amsterdam and Utrecht. There is also an option for home delivery for those who prefer to avoid a trip to the store.
The concentration of the population in The Netherlands makes it an ideal launching point for the ochama concept in Europe. The retailer said 92 percent of those living in the country reside in cities with polycentric neighborhoods.
“Dutch people are passionate for innovation and a green environment, and ochama’s shopping format is designed to contribute to both aspects,” said Mr. den Butter. “There will be no queue and fewer traffic jams to do the chores as they can go for convenience, benefits and everything in one stop at ochama.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What interests you most about the ochama concept being launched by JD.com in The Netherlands? Do you think the population density and other attributes that make the Dutch market attractive to JD.com can be found in areas around the U.S. as well?