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01/10/2022

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com moves into Europe with ‘robotic shops’

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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ochama
JD.com has opened two robotic stores in the Netherlands.

In a move seen as a challenge to Amazon’s expanding physical footprint, JD.com has opened its first stores in Europe, opening two robotic “pick-up” stores in the Netherlands — with more to come.

JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce platform in China, has opened stores in Leiden and Rotterdam under the brand name of Ochama, which combines “omnichannel” and “amazing,” the company said. Two additional locations are set to open, in Amsterdam (Diemen) and Utrecht.

The new, membership-based format merges online ordering and a pick-up shop in which robots prepare the packages (and deliver them to customers’ homes if the customer chooses.)  Shoppers can use the Ochama app to order a wide range of products, including food, household appliances, beauty, fashion, home furnishings and more.They can then go to the store and watch a fleet of robots, including automated ground vehicles and robotic arms, pick and sort orders. The shopper scans a barcode on their app at the check-out and their orders will be delivered to them via a conveyer belt.

In addition, shoppers can visit the pick-up shop’s showroom to see the merchandise assortments. They can also choose the next-day home delivery service without going to the pick-up shop.

According to Ochama's COO Mark den Butter, by fully tapping the technologies in logistics and supply chain management, the new shops can bring down the product price by an extra 10% to the benefit of customers.

“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, JD Worldwide.

JD.com operates grocery stores and convenience stores in China in addition to its online platform. Its move into physical retail in Europe comes after Amazon brought its check-out free grocery format, Amazon Go, to the U.K.

The Netherlands is one of the most urbanized countries in Europe. Data from the World Bank shows that as of 2020, 92% of the population in the Netherlands live in cities with a polycentric urban structure, which has led to Ochama's decision to open shops across four cities.

“Dutch people are passionate for innovation and a green environment, and Ochama's shopping format is designed to contribute to both aspects,” said 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.”