JD.com chief executive Richard Liu says that, in the future, retail will be operated not by humans but by “data, technology and robots”.
Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Madrid, the Chinese ecommerce giant’s chairman and founder said that “sooner or later, our entire industry will operate by data, technology and robots, not by humans.”
Liu did not give a timeline for when this technology-driven retail future would come to fruition.
However, he did say that retailers were a way off from providing a scalable automated shopping experience.
Although JD.com has more than 10 fully automated convenience stores in China today, Liu said the technology was not ready to be rolled out to a wider store estate yet.
“The fully automated store is today only a concept, not something that can serve the whole society,” said Liu.
“It’s only in universities or some huge companies, but on the side of a street it wouldn’t work today – it needs more new technology to work.”
Liu also said the pace of innovation in China by companies like JD.com is “good for Western retailers because it sets an example of rapid change”.
“Change is not an issue for me; it’s an opportunity,” he added.
JD.com currently has 292 million active customers in China and offers same-day or next-day delivery on 90% of its orders – a service Liu said has been driven by the country’s fickle and demanding customer base.
“I think the attitude to loyalty in China is different – China is more strict,” he said.
“We cannot deliver an order in two days, that would be a disaster – [our shoppers] expect it in six hours.”