Chinese retail giant Alibaba is known largely for its e-Commerce marketplaces and its payments platform Alipay. But the nearly $400 billion company also is quietly building out a brick-and-mortar presence, opening up 13 Hema supermarkets in China since 2015.
The brick-and-mortar initiatives have for the most part flown under the radar, but they are serving as labs for Alibaba’s “New Retail” strategy. Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang noted in a statement that Hema “leverages data and smart logistics technology to seamlessly integrate online-offline systems, built to provide the unparalleled service of fresh food deliveries in 30 minutes.” The Hema supermarkets are designed to cater specifically to mobile consumers, particularly within a three-kilometer radius, to ensure fast, high-level service.
Many retailers are still figuring out how to effectively integrate their online and offline channels to create a unified customer experience, but Alibaba is showing that a strong foundation in data analysis and backend technology is a necessity for it to happen. Like Amazon, Alibaba has had the advantage of expanding from its e-Commerce-only roots to position itself as a technology company.
Few retailers have been able…