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Design showcase: JD.com's 7Fresh supermarket format in Beijing

Chinese online retail giant JD.com is moving into physical stores. It has recently opened its second Beijing branch of its grocery store format 7Fresh, reports Caroline Baldwin.

JD.com carefully analysed existing customer data to choose the location and merchandise mix of the stores.

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 Market. Shoppers are greeted by a fresh flower display as well as large-scale digital signage.

The air-conditioned interior offers a welcome respite from Beijing’s humidity.

There is an abundance of QR codes throughout the interior; the codes are a common sight in China.

There are also two eating areas, catering to both Eastern and Western tastes. Items such as lobsters can be freshly prepared on site for an extra fee.

The entire store uses electronic shelf labelling to convey prices to customers.

Many of the boxed fresh items, such as a four-pack of avocados, can be placed on an RFID reader to access more product information on a digital screen placed above the selection.

Customers are also encouraged to scan a QR code on the packaging to trace the product’s movements from farm to shop through the JD.com app. Once bagged, the orders are attached to an aerial conveyor belt and carried across the ceiling to a transportation hub at the rear of the store.

Personal shoppers can deliver online orders in 30 minutes, within a 3km radius of the store. Experimental services apparently include a robotic hands-free trolley that will follow shoppers around the store.

In-store shoppers can choose between traditional or self-service checkouts, paying with cards, cash, WeChat or facial recognition technology.

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