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#WRC2018: 17 takeaways from JD.com

JD.com had a huge presence at World Retail Congress 2018, with its founder, CEO and chairman, Richard Liu, taking to the stage for the opening keynote and a dedicated breakfast for media on the morning of the second day. As a WRC retail partner, the retailer clearly wanted to make its presence known in the West. Essential Retail picks out the top 17 interesting anecdotes we learnt about the Chinese powerhouse over the course of the conference.

1. Liu impressed the audience with his candid answers during his first English-speaking keynote interview at WRC. But his final takeaway stunned audiences when he made a chilling prediction, saying: “Sooner or later our entire industry will be operated by AI tech and robots – not led by humans like it is today anymore.”

2. His future vision of retail being led by an army of robots is not surprising when you take a look at JD.com’s current logistics operations where it depends on robots in its warehouses, as well as a fleet of autonomous vehicles and drones.

JD.com uses robots across its distribution centres in China
JD.com uses robots across its distribution centres in China
Sorting robots at a JD.com warehouse
Sorting robots at a JD.com warehouse

3. Its extensive logistics network covers 99% of China’s population, but the retailer still employees 65,000 humans to help move parcels around the country.

4. The network leverages 500 warehouses and almost 7,000 delivery stations meaning 57% of orders are fulfilled within six hours, while 90% of orders get to their destination with 24 hours.

5. One warehouse in Shanghai, called Asia No 1, fulfils 250,000 parcels every day.

6. JD.com was the first company in the world to gain aerial rights to test drone delivery. It now has a commercial drone service which operates across 300km in the Shaanxi Provence, aiding last-mile delivery in less-developed areas.

Drone delivery is commonplace in the Shaanxi Provence in China
Drone delivery is commonplace in the Shaanxi Provence in China

7. Liu set up the company with a physical store in Beijing to earn money after university to help purchase medicine for his sick grandmother-in-law.

8. Following the SARS epidemic, JD.com began trading online in 2004 and ten years later was the largest Nasdaq IPO of 2014.

9. Revenue in 2017 hit $55.7 billion making it the largest retailer in China and the third largest internet company in the world, behind Amazon and Alphabet.

10. JD.com boasts 292.5 million active customers, 80% of which order via mobile, with 25% of new shoppers discovering JD.com via the WeChat social messaging platform.

11. France is JD.com’s first step into Europe with a local office in Paris which opened at the beginning of 2018.

12. JD.com is using its expansion into Europe not as a launchpad to begin selling to Western consumers, but as a way to encourage more international brand partners to help the company grow even more in China. Its competitor, Alibaba, is also trying to partner with international brands, but JD.com says its business model differs – while Alibaba is a marketplace platform connecting consumers with brands and products, JD buys in products wholesale to sell onto Chinese consumers.

13. JD.com has recently launched a luxury logistics service, called Toplife, to encourage more high-end brands to sell their goods online to Chinese consumers. JD already has 20 luxury brands selling on the platform, mostly from Europe. The goods are stored in warehouses which are specially monitored for temperature, humidity and pollution. It also offers a “white glove” delivery service in eight Chinese cities.

JD.com's dedicated luxury warehouse
JD.com's dedicated luxury warehouse
JD.com's white glove service adds a touch of decadence to the last mile
JD.com's white glove service adds a touch of decadence to the last mile

14. China’s version of Black Friday – Single’s Day 11.11 – sees more and more new eCommerce consumers trying out the brand every year. Over the 11 day sales period in 2017, JD.com sales hit $19.1 billion – 50% increase year-on-year, fulfilling 240 million orders, 85% of which were delivered the same day.

15. The retailer has even launched a physical supermarket brand 7Fresh, which JD.com describes as similar to “Whole Foods with a local taste”. The grocery stores integrate with eCommerce, feature smart shopping carts, artificial intelligence, self-checkout machines, as well as blockchain technology to provide origin traceability of products.

Chinese consumers value fresh produce
Chinese consumers value fresh produce

16. Walmart holds a 10% stake in JD.com, utilising its Chinese stores for click & collect and combining inventory and supply chains for faster fulfilment.

17. “Finding problems or issues in an industry, to me it means an opportunity,” says Liu. “The whole world is changing so fast, you need a lot of innovation every day and never stop.”

JD.com's founder & CEO, Richard Liu, delivering parcels to consumers
JD.com's founder & CEO, Richard Liu, delivering parcels to consumers

RBTE takes place at London’s Olympia, 2-3 May 2018.

You can register to attend here 

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