The opening of the 7Fresh supermarket by JD.com will probably bring an end to a misunderstanding that has lasted at least ten years. Throughout this period, there were countless occasions when the difficulties of this or that brand or sector of the industry were explained by the explosive growth of digital commerce to the detriment of the physical equivalent. The real nature of the vicissitudes of the American "Apocalypse" was often completely misunderstood, and thus became the basis supporting a "school of thought" that identified e-commerce as the butler figure in the murder mystery that saw the store killed solely and exclusively by the failure to "convert" the business to digital.
A year and a half ago, in the crescendo of catastrophic news concerning distribution in the USA, we wrote the following on these pages.
In spite of certain superficial forecasts, not only has e-commerce not meant the end of traditional shops, it has even brought new opportunities and tools, with the unique effect of a homeopathic treatment... No segment of the retail sector can claim be untouched by great advantages of digital innovation (and sometimes disastrous disadvantages by rejecting them or delaying their implementation) but traditional brick and mortar sales seem not only to have "hung in there" against a type of retail originally viewed almost exclusively as a deadly competitor, instead it appears to have borrowed prospects from it to strengthen itself.
Retex, 28 July 2016
This is a very conspicuous company in Italy now, where the delay in e-commerce accrued to date is being gradually reduced to bring it into line with the most advanced European countries (19% in the UK, 14% in Germany, 12% in France). The most important figure follows from this: 80% of retail will always pass through traditional sales points. Confirmation of the necessity for the two forms of commerce to come together are all too easy to find in the recent or very recent past: just think about the Amazon - WholeFood transaction or the strategic agreement that will link Alibaba to Auchan. Since its origin (the project and its implementation are the work of JD.com, one of the giants of digital commerce), 7Fresh has served as an advert for the integration of the two types of commerce with a single and engaging business relationship with the consumer. The "wow!" effect already guaranteed thanks to the special design, 7Fresh represents the perfect integration of online and offline businesses through technological innovation. A good example of this comes from "magic mirrors", automatic displays that are activated when a product is picked from the shelves to provide instant nutritional information. The shopping carts are robotic and follow the shoppers throughout the aisles. In terms of the payment, it is possible to use the self-checkout thanks to the facial recognition integrated in the brand's app. This also enables home delivery for shopping within 30 minutes of ordering, for customers who reside within a five kilometre radius of the store. Most of the 7Fresh assortment consists of fresh food. JD.com operates the largest cold chain logistics service in China, which involves around two thousand food suppliers. Another noteworthy aspect is the marked orientation towards the consumption preferences of millennials, with a wide range of imported foods: fruit and meat imported from Australia and Spain, fish from Japan, and bakery goods including French delicacies. Of course, there is also space for in-store catering. JD.com intends to develop the 7Fresh format with at least one thousand openings in China over the next 3-5 years.