Walmart Joins ‘Smart Retail’ Wars in China — Opens Its First High-Tech Supermarket

Walmart Inc. continues to make moves in China.

The retail giant today debuted its first small-format Walmart Supermarket in Shenzhen’s Bao’an District, where customers will be able to shop more than 8,000 items in a store that, at 1,200 square meters, is around 10 percent the size of a regular Walmart Hypermarket, made to better accommodate shoppers in residential areas.

The store uses a high-tech stocking system that helps associates locate products on their exact shelves, with the product-picking route allowing stores to provide delivery in less than 30 minutes to homes within two kilometers of the store.

“Retail and lifestyle are closely linked,” said Elliot Dickson, SVP and chief operations officer of Walmart China’s Hypermarket division. “We are introducing our new Walmart Supermarket to give customers an upgraded omnichannel experience that is rooted in their own community. Our goal, as ever, remains to serve customers so that they can live better.”

According to a company press release, the supermarket’s soft opening day set a record for stores on the JD.com website, receiving more than 1,000 orders online. The fastest delivery was less than 10 minutes from the order to the customer’s door. (Walmart and JD.com announced a partnership in June 2016; among the tenets of the deal were an agreement to have Walmart’s China stores listed as a preferred retailer on JD.com’s O2O JV Dada.)

It’s among the latest moves in a marked push toward “smart retail,” a trend that’s taking root in the country and sees retailers integrating online and offline experiences. The new store also comes just weeks after Walmart announced plans that rocked China’s mobile payments market, dropping Alibaba’s dominant Alipay for Tencent’s WeChat. The program will be used in the recently launched supermarket, giving customers the option to scan the bar codes of products they shop and bypass the traditional checkout counter by paying via their mobile devices.

Walmart opened its first Hypermarket in Shenzhen in 1996. With more than 400 stores across China, the company plans to open five more supermarkets in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan by the end of the year.

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