JD.com opens robotic shops in the Netherlands as Chinese e-commerce giant tests new model in Europe

  • The stores merge online ordering with pickup shops, where robots prepare parcels for collection
  • JD.com has remained largely unscathed by government’s tech crackdown but new markets are key to offset slower consumer spending in China

JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce platform in China, has opened two “robotic” shops in the Netherlands as it tests a new shopping model in the European market.

Branded as Ochama, combining the concepts of “omnichannel” and “amazing”, the stores merge online ordering with pickup shops where robots prepare parcels for collection and home delivery services are offered, the company said in a statement late Monday.

This is the first time that the Beijing-based tech giant, founded by billionaire Richard Liu Qiangdong, has opened a physical retail store in Europe, and the first two shops will be in Leiden and Rotterdam. It plans to open another two stores in Amsterdam and Utrecht in the near future, according to the statement.

“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,” said Pass Lei, general manager of Ochama at JD Worldwide.

The stores will offer consumers fresh and packaged food, household appliances, beauty, mother and child products as well as fashion and home furnishings through Ochama’s app. At the pickup shops, a fleet of robots including automated ground vehicles (AGV) and robotic arms, will pick, sort and transfer the goods to customers.

The move represents the latest effort by a Chinese e-commerce firm to crack overseas markets amid fierce competition and tighter regulations at home.

While JD.com has remained largely unscathed by the central government’s crackdown on the technology sector over the past year, it remains under pressure along with competitors such as Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the Post, to find new markets to offset slower consumer spending growth at home.

Tencent Holdings last month divested most of its stake in JD.com, saying the e-commerce firm had grown to the point where it no longer requires Tencent’s financial backing. Martin Lau, Tencent’s president who had served as a board member at JD.com since 2014, also stepped down.

Author: Jane Zhang, SCMP

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