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Bloomberg has a story suggesting that if you want a hint about what Amazon may be doing “in physical retail” tomorrow, it is worth looking at what is happening in China today.

“If you’d taken this advice, you wouldn’t have been surprised when the behemoth spent $13.7 billion last year buying Whole Foods,” the story says. “Eighteen months earlier Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. had launched Hema, a technologically advanced blend of online grocery shopping, dining and bricks and mortar.

“Alibaba currently has 57 Hema stores, and plans to have 100 by the end of its financial year in March 2019. In five years there could be as many as 2,000. Rival JD.com Inc. has already launched its high-end response, 7Fresh, with two locations in Beijing offering all three services. It could have hundreds over the next few years.”

The key to what these Chinese retailers are doing is the combination of three concepts in one: supermarket, delivery hub, and restaurant. It is a combination that has been resonant with Chinese consumers, and may get more so when combined with new payment processing options, such as the use of facial recognition. While there has been some use of checkout-free technology, the story suggests that Amazon certainly is catching up with its Amazon Go format, which is said to be even more advanced that what Chinese retailers are doing.

You can read the entire story here.
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