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Alibaba’s Hema melds online, offline grocery

BY Marianne Wilson

HANGZHOU, China — Alibaba has stepped up its efforts to combine physical retail with online in the supermarket space.


The Chinese e-commerce behemoth has opened three new membership supermarkets, under the Hema banner in Beijing and Shanghai that seamlessly blend offline features with physical retail. The shopping experience starts with a download of the Helma mobile app, which links up to a customer’s Taobao or Alipay account. Using the app, customers can shop from their homes, and also order fresh food to have it prepared by the Hema chefs and delivered within 30 minutes.

Customers who prefer to shop in store can also select items to be cooked for carry-out, delivered to their nearby home or office, or they can eat it on the spot in the store’s dining area. Hema stores look like normal supermarkets, with a selection of packaged foods, produce, seafood, beverages and other goods.  Every item has a scannable bar code, which yields price and product information, including its origin and backstory (if there is one.) Customers scan the code and complete their electronic purchase through Alipay at a checkout register before leaving the store.

The Hema user experience is enhanced through big data, according to Alibaba. Because customers shop through the Hema mobile app, every purchase is logged, and their preferences are saved, giving them a personalized product page.

"We believe the future of New Retail will be a harmonious integration of online and offline, and Hema is a prime example of this evolution that's taking place," said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group, said in a statement. "Hema is a showcase of the new business opportunities that emerge from online-offline integration.”

Since 2015, Alibaba has opened 13 Hema markets, with ten in Shanghai, two in Beijing, and one in Ningbo.

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Walmart opens new Florida e-commerce fulfillment center

BY Marianne Wilson

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is bringing 1,500 jobs to Florida as it continues to expand its e-commerce fulfillment network.

The discounter on Tuesday opened an e-commerce fulfillment center in Davenport, Fla. At 2.2. million sq. ft., the state-of-the-art facility is equivalent in size to about 20 football fields and features 33 miles of shelving and dock doors that can withstand wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. It will house millions of items dedicated to fulfilling online orders and will enable faster shipping directly to customers or to stores for free pickup, Walmart said.

The facility is the sixth addition to the next-generation fulfillment network that Walmart is building to support its e-commerce business. The new 50-acre campus is part of a $450 million investment the retailer previously announced it is making in Florida between 2017 and 2018.

“This campus is just the latest example of Walmart’s commitment to offering customers fast shipping on items they need every day,” said Nate Faust, senior VP, Walmart U.S. e-commerce supply chain. “We’re excited not only about the economic impact our facility has had, and will continue to have, in the community, but also how it will help us empower our customers to shop when and how they want.”

The opening comes at a time of growth in e-commerce for Walmart. In the first quarter of this year, the retailer experienced 63% growth in U.S. e-commerce sales, the majority coming from organic growth in Walmart.com.  Since the beginning of the year, Walmart.com has rolled out a number of new features, including free two-day shipping with no membership fees, an extra discount for picking up orders in stores and the ability to easily reorder online or make store purchases within the Walmart app. 

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Back-to-school season brings new services, tools to Walmart

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is making it easier for parents to stay on their game during this year's back-to-school shopping season.

According to Deloitte, this year's season is expected to be a strong one and start early. Walmart is rolling out new services to help shoppers easily find what they are looking for — in stores and online.

On the brick-and-mortar front, Walmart is touting “back-to-school” associates who will be ready to direct customers to open cash registers, find the shortest lines and grab any last-minute items before shoppers finish checking out.

Online, Walmart is launching a dedicated back-to-school destination – walmart.com/classroomsupplies – that features a section called TeacherLists, where teachers can upload supply lists. The tool enables shoppers to enter their zip code and pinpoint their individual classroom list or a general grade supplies list. 

Currently, the site lists nearly 500,000 classroom lists. The number is expected to grow to more than a million by the end of August, representing a majority of schools and classrooms across the United States, according to Walmart.

The discounter said it also has "significantly" expanded the number of items that can be bought online and picked up in store, and made “hundreds” of back-to-school staples eligible for its Online Grocery Pickup shopping service. It also has doubled the number of items availa-ble for same-day pickup — an assortment that includes the top 400+ back-to-school items, the retailer said.

“We’re saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students,” said Scott Bayles, VP of stationery, Walmart U.S.

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