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Blog: A look at JD.com’s 7Fresh grocery store

As you enter JD.com’s 7Fresh store in a new business district in the South East of Beijing, the first thing that hits you is the air conditioning, which is very welcome as you walk in from the muggy 31 degree heat which blankets the rest of the city.

Once you’ve relaxed into the coolness of the store you realise right away that this is not a regular Chinese supermarket. One of two stores in Beijing, 7Fresh was JD.com’s first offline supermarket, after carefully analysing existing customer data to choose an appropriate location and stock.

Two-thirds of the stock is fresh produce and the entire store caters to Chinese shoppers wanting a more upmarket grocery experience. The stores feels like a cross between Waitrose and Whole Foods and you are greeted by a fresh flower display as well as large-scale digital signage.

Littered throughout the store is an abundance of QR codes which is a common sight during our visit to China. There are also two eating areas catering to both Eastern and Western tastes. Choose a lobster at a premium (which has been air freighted in from Canada) and for a few pounds extra you can have it freshly prepared to enjoy on site - I tried it and the crab and must say it was exquisite.

But less on the shellfish and back to the technology...

ESL & RFID

The entire store uses electronic shelf labelling to convey prices to customers. Meanwhile, in the fruit & veg aisle many of the boxed items, such as a four-pack of avocados, can be placed on an RFID reader in order to find out more information about the product on the digital screen placed above the selection.

Blockchain

All the innovation seemed to be in the vegetable aisle. JD.com has been talking about blockchain for a while, with the launch of a start-up accelerator back in February in hopes to develop more innovations from the technology.

Meanwhile, 7Fresh customers are encouraged to scan a QR code on the packaging of their veg to trace the product’s movements from farm to shop through the JD.com app.

Smart trolley

Apparently the retailer is working on a trolley which follows customers around the store leaving them hands-free. But to my disappointment there was no evidence of robo-cart in the store on the day we visited.

Personal shopping

A high-end supermarket naturally comes with a high-end personal shopper. These shoppers can deliver online orders in 30 minutes within a 3km distance.

Once the order is bagged, the store colleagues attaches it to an aerial conveyor belt and the goods bob their way across the ceiling to the transportation hub at the rear of the store.

Payments

Self-service check-outs are relatively new in China so four of these are matched by four traditional check-outs. Customers can make payment in card, cash, WeChat or even using facial recognition technology.

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