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How JD.com envisions the future of retail

By Weixin Zha

16 May 2019


Amsterdam - To get an idea of how the future of retail might look like, it’s always worth turning to China with its tech-savvy consumers and its companies pushing the boundaries of e-commerce. Here are three takeaways about the future retail landscape, according to Chinese online retail giant JD.com.

No borders

“The future of retail is about boundless retail. Consumers can get whatever they want, wherever they want it,“ said Ling Chenkai, vice president of corporate strategy & investment at Chinese online retailer JD.com, at the World Retail Congress on Thursday. “In boundless retail we aim to bring the retailer to the consumer.”

Rather than being divided between online and offline, “shopping moments” will be popping up everywhere and in many different ways - from social, conversational, AI-based - all of which will be seamlessly joined together.

”The value of products will decrease”

“The value of products will decrease but the value of content and service will increase,” said Ling during his talk.

The relationship with the consumer doesn’t end after a purchase - that’s where it begins. Ling used smart home speakers as an example: The speaker won’t be just a product; it will be the starting point for further purchases of content, music, weather forecasts and other items.

This new way of thinking about a product also means that the manufacturer and retailer will work together more closely.

“Nowadays, because retail understands the consumer, we are more and more involved in the creation of the product. We will feed the brands based on our insights on consumer behaviour and market dynamics.”

The time of the integrated vertical value chain is over

Instead of owning most of the value chain from warehouse to system of delivery, retailers must examine which parts they need as the complexity of the industry increases. JD.com has started to look for help from outside specialists and recently decoupled its distribution unit. By building what it calls an ecosystem, the company brings in outside technology expertise and hopes to set a new standard for retail.

“We really need to understand throughout the value chain, throughout the ecosystem which part we need to own, which part has a strategic value for us,” said Ling.

Picture: JD.com media resources