China’s largest B2C website Tmall.com is exploring a “bricks and clicks” delivery system that in some cases could allow online shoppers in major Chinese cities to receive their orders in less than a day.
The service, currently only available to Beijing consumers through the Tmall flagship store of Jack & Jones, a popular Danish male apparel retailer, enables buyers to receive orders more quickly because merchandise ordered online is shipped directly from physical stores located near buyers instead of from central warehouses.
Under the system, when a Beijing shopper places an order through Jack & Jones on Tmall, the company searches its chain of Beijing outlets to locate the desired merchandise at a store closest to the shopper. When goods are available, orders are picked up by couriers of Winshine Logistics, a partner of Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao, and delivered to buyers’ homes.
For efficiency, physical stores distribute merchandise in three batches each day: morning, afternoon and evening. As long as consumers place orders before 6 p.m., they receive their orders on the same day, in some cases in as few as three hours. Delivery of consumer goods ordered on Tmall currently takes at least a day.
By treating their brick-and-mortar outlets as part of one big virtual warehouse, chain-store operators can maximize their resources and boost inventory turnover while reducing delivery distances, said Duan Zhiguo, a Cainiao official. The solution also strengthens the connection between physical outlets and online shoppers, Duan added. Of course, only retailers with physical stores can participate, and the depth of inventory carried at individual outlets effects how often orders can successfully be fulfilled from shops located near buyers’ homes.
The service started trial operation in Beijing on April 8, and is set to be expanded to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou by the end of the month, according to Tmall.