E-commerce giant JD.com chief promises technology-driven future

Richard Liu tells staff at the 13-year-old firm it is perfectly positioned to play a key role on the eve of a ‘fourth retail revolution’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 10:03am

Richard Liu Qiangdong, the chairman and chief executive of JD.com, China’s second-largest e-commerce player after Alibaba Group Holding, says the country is on the eve of a “fourth retail revolution” that will see intelligent technology optimise funds, goods and information flow across the entire sector.

In a letter to employees on Sunday, which marks the company’s 13th birthday, Liu said JD.com was perfectly positioned to play a key role in the next stage as a “retail infrastructure service provider” by offering more technology-driven solutions to clients on the platform in the form of cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

He also used the occasion to underline the firm’s future commitment to deliveries by unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, particularly to rural areas of the country.

JD.com, which already uses about 40 drones for deliveries in four of the country’s 30 administrative divisions, wanted to expand that number considerably, he said.

Liu said the company also planned to build an open platform to share its retail infrastructure with the community while business functions within the firm would become modular and market-oriented to meet the changing demands of its clients.

JD.com’s shopping experience will be supported by automatic checkout through facial recognition as well as technology such as smart refrigerators, for instance, that can automatically place orders to replenish fresh food at customers’ homes.

“It took a long time for people to accept us as a very successful retail company. I have no doubt that it will take time, but hopefully shorter, for them to accept JD.com as a very successful technology company, too,” Liu said.

In recent years, JD.com has tried to encourage more online orders around its anniversary through special offers and promotions, in a way similar to the annual Singles’ Day shopping event on November 11 led by Alibaba.

This year, the value of orders placed on JD.com had exceeded 110 billion yuan (US$16 billion) for the month to June 18. Its official Weibo site said sales in the first hour of June 18 itself were 2.5 times higher than a year earlier, without specifying the exact numbers.

Other online and offline retailers have also started using June 18 as a day to offer bargains to shoppers.

Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, said transactions of fast-moving consumer goods such as cosmetics, electronics goods, fresh produce, clothing and mobile phones surged 378 per cent year on year on Tmall within the first half-hour after sales started at midnight.