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Hema Fresh starts 24-hour deliveries in 2 cities

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-03 09:05
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Hema Fresh, the prototype supermarket chain of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's New Retail concept, has launched a 24 hour delivery service in two Chinese cities as it strives to combine the online and offline shopping experience.

From Sunday, customers in Shanghai and Beijing can place orders online on Hema's app from 10 pm to 7 am, when brick-and-mortar Hema stores are closed, and have their goods delivered in as little as 30 minutes within a radius of three kilometers.

Customers now can satisfy their stomach in the middle of the night by ordering cooked seafood, snacks and beverages, as well as meet more intimate needs such as picking from among 700 sexual-wellness products including condoms and lubricants.

The new service fits closely with Alibaba's efforts to realize its new "three-kilometer ideal living community" goal, which includes the integration of technologies and other services to pinpoint consumer needs, said Hema CEO Hou Yi.

Claiming to be the first such service globally, Hema will serve as a "touch point" through which a suite of Alibaba's online offerings, be it e-commerce platform Tmall, video site Youku or travel service Fliggy, find their offline base, said Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of Alibaba.

"For example, we are mulling to host Southeast Asian travel and cuisine-themed events in partnership with Fliggy at Hema. You will start to see Hema become the avenue for a growing number of events serving local communities," he told China Daily on Saturday.

Hema is shifting from meeting people's catering demands to addressing a wider variety of needs, according to Xu Rongcong, a chief analyst at China Merchants Securities Co Ltd.

"At this stage, profitability is not the top priority of Hema. The 24-hour delivery primarily aims to cultivate shopping habits and enhance customer loyalty, especially in Shanghai and Beijing where people have more spending power and are willing to try out new services," Xu said.

The move came just days after it entered into partnerships with 13 leading property developers in China to help digitalize their commercial infrastructure, a step critical to achieving its target of having 100 retail stores by the end of this year.

Hema, which debuted in 2016, is seen as the test ground for Alibaba's New Retail concept. With each store doubling as a warehouse, Hema allows both in-store and online shopping and features the use of technologies to predict sales, manage inventory and dispatch parcels.

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