Alibaba is expanding Hema, a chain of cashless supermarkets.
The stores are sprawling and offer a giant selection of fresh food, including seafood that shoppers can select and send to the kitchen to be cooked before the end of their trip.
Shoppers can also order groceries online for delivery in under 30 minutes.
Customers use their smartphones to shop and pay for their groceries at Hema.
The biggest e-commerce company in China, Alibaba, is growing a chain of cashless supermarkets unlike anything in the US. The chain, called Hema, will double its locations in China to nearly 60 this year.
Shoppers use their phones to pay for food at Hema, much like at Amazon’s new cashierless stores,Amazon Go.
But Hema also has two other key services: chefs that will cook shoppers‘ groceries on demand, and couriers that deliver online orders in under 30 minutes.
Here’s what Hema is like.
Hema is a sprawling supermarket that is primarily focused on fresh foods like meat, seafood, vegetables, and fruit, as well as prepared foods.
The market has a giant seafood selection where customers can select their own seafood and send it to the kitchen to be cooked before they leave the store.
Customers can also bag their seafood and take it home raw to cook themselves, or have it delivered to their homes within 30 minutes.
For customers who choose to dine at the store, there is a large area that can seat about 100 people.
Everything in Hema has a barcode, which shoppers can scan to trace the product’s origin, delivery, and nutritional information.
The Hema app suggests recipes and similar products based on what customers scan.
If customers don’t want to visit the store, they can order anything from Hema on the chain’s app.
The stores double as warehouses for online orders. Hema employees fulfill the orders by picking and packing them in reusable bags, right alongside customers.
Employees then drop off the bags on a conveyer belt that runs up the wall of the store to the ceiling.
Then the bags travel over customers‘ heads to an adjacent delivery hub.
Deliveries are shipped out to customers within 30 minutes of their initial order.
A single Hema store fulfills thousands of online orders per day.
If customers are shopping in stores, they can check out using their smartphones or head to a facial recognition kiosk.
The kiosks will scan their faces and link them to their Alipay accounts — Alibaba’s mobile payment system — and they can be on their way.