CHINA INNOVATES IN ELECTRONIC RETAIL

Drones, autonomous vehicles and automated warehouses: all part of JD.com’s 2018 strategy

China’s retail giant JD.com started testing robotic delivery services and building drone delivery airports this year, as well as operating driverless delivery by unveiling its first autonomous truck. We asked Chen Zhang, JD.com’s CTO, who oversees the company’s programmes to develop innovative and cutting-edge technologies (among other things), how these innovations are rolling out.

JD.com has been testing autonomous delivery vehicles in a few university campuses in China. In the long-term we expect these vehicles to make urban deliveries in locations like corporate campuses and office buildings. Moreover, we are researching autonomous light electric vans with industrial partners for delivery of goods from JD’s distribution centres to delivery stations in the future.

We now have daily operation for drone delivery in several locations in China. We use drone delivery to lower logistics costs and increase efficiency in areas where complex terrain and poor infrastructure make “last mile” logistics challenging. We are also researching drones that can carry more than a ton, transporting between cities or warehouses.

What do you see as being the key trends in the evolution of consumer demand in China?
The Chinese e-commerce landscape is already one of the most developed in the world, but continues to see tremendous changes. About 18% of retail takes place online in China, about double that of the US. By 2020, Chinese online purchases are expected to exceed those of the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan combined. China is a mobile-first commerce market and Chinese consumers look for the best consumer experience. On JD.com, about 80% of our orders come from mobile and for our users in many parts of China, same-day delivery is seen as a standard.

Thoughts on omni-channel?

Today, reaching Chinese customers means for brands developing an omni-channel strategy using online social media channels, CRM & omni channel strategies.

JD.com has been a global leader in the shift to omnichannel.

For instance, we have jointly deployed with Walmart a supply chain and backend system to integrate inventory management. When a customer places an order on JD.com, our order management system will determine whether a JD.com warehouse or Walmart store is closer to the customer, and dispatch a courier accordingly.