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    Peculiarities of Trade in China: Drones, Robots, 'Contactless' Shops

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    BEIJING (Sputnik) - When ordering goods online, residents of China do not have to wait long for the postman to bring them their goods, even if they live in the mountains, since the package will be delivered to them in less than a day by a drone, which is assisted by a warehouse robot.

    The Chinese are already testing another technological innovation, which is the "contactless" stores.

    "We have created our own logistics system, which covers almost the entire population of the country. Almost 90 percent of customers can receive an order on the same day or the next day," Gu Yang, the deputy director of international communications of JD.com, one the largest online retailers in China, told Sputnik.

    The company was founded in 1998. In 2004, it became an online retailer. It is one of the largest companies in terms of online sales in China in the B2C sector. In 2017, the retailer’s revenue increased by 40 percent and amounted to 362 billion yuan ($52 billion).

    Difficulties of Delivery

    It is possible to order anything, from tangerines to large household equipment, due to the new platform. It directly works with manufacturers of goods, which rules out the possibility of selling fake goods.

    To deliver orders to the mountainous provinces, Shanxi and Jiangsu, for example, the company uses drones, which are capable of bringing loads weighing up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds) even in difficult weather conditions. There are currently about 100 routes that drones use for delivery.

    "With the help of artificial intelligence, we can calculate from where and how many orders we will get," Gu said.

    Lift robots, which are able to detect goods and place them on shelves, help the staff at the warehouse. Such "assistant" is able of lifting boxes which weight hundreds of kilograms.

    Shops Without Cashier

    Currently, the company is also working on the "store of the future" technology, where customers can shop without using a cash register. These stores use special "smart" shelves, which record when a person takes goods from a shelf or puts them back.

    The buyer signs in through an app and the store begins to "recognize" the customer in person and automatically bills selected goods on his or her bank card, linked to a personal account in the shop.

    There are 10 such stores functioning in China so far. However, only an owner of a Chinese phone number can use them, as this service is not available to a tourist who holds, for example, a Russian number.

    "We do not set a goal to work completely without using people. We only try, using robots and artificial intelligence, to create better working conditions for employees and customers," the executive said, adding that the company was open for cooperation and discussing partnership opportunities with colleagues from other countries.

    Partners in Russia?

    A source in the Russian retail market told Sputnik in July that JD.com was negotiating the launch of deliveries of goods, purchased on the platform, to the X5 Retail Group, the leading Russian food retailer operating a number of chain stores, such as Perekrestok and Pyaterochka.

    The source noted that posters with goods from the Chinese retailer appeared on some of Pyaterochka’s store windows. They are placed within the framework of a joint campaign to promote the goods from the Chinese platform among Pyaterochka’s customers.

    A representative of X5 Retail Group said that the company has been working on the creation of an infrastructure for the delivery of purchases from online marketplaces to automated distribution centers, such as lockers and automated postal centers, planned to be placed in the stores of the retailer. X5 Retail Group announced this initiative in May.

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    Tags:
    stores, development, robots, technology, shopping, JD.com, X5 Retail Group, Russia, China
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