Shoppers in the Netherlands this month are testing a new store format that takes retail automation to a whole new level, deploying what’s essentially a “buy online/pick up in store” (BOPIS) model in which robots prepare the orders.
Launched in January by Chinese retail giant JD.com, the model combines an automated warehouse with a pickup shop, and is known by the new brand name “ochama,” a portmanteau of “omnichannel” and “amazing.”
Customers begin the shopping process by ordering items through the ochama smartphone app, choosing from an array of fresh and packaged foods; household appliances; beauty, maternal, and child products; fashion apparel; and home furnishings.
They then have two options. Option A is to visit the pickup shop, where they scan a QR code generated by the app and then watch as their orders are assembled by a fleet of robots that includes AGVs (automated guided vehicles) and robotic arms, and delivered to them by conveyor belt. Option B is to skip the trip altogether and elect to use ochama’s next-day delivery service.
Either way, JD.com says the new technology drives product prices down by 10%—savings that are then passed on to consumers. But if you want to try the robot-assisted shopping experience for yourself, you’ll have to book a trip to the Netherlands. The company currently has just two ochama shops in operation—in Leiden and Rotterdam—and says the next to open will be in Amsterdam (Diemen) and Utrecht.