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June 20, 2017

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Drones, robots, driverless cars cater to ‘618’ shopping spree

CHINESE Internet users splurged on the mid-year online shopping spree on Sunday.

While November 11, or Singles Day, is the largest online shopping festival in China, created by Alibaba’s Tmall, the “618” shopping festival on June 18 was launched by, Tmall’s arch-rival.

Other companies soon jumped on the bandwagon and began to offer special offers to get more customers.

On Sunday, reported its first-hour sales more than doubled from the same period of last year. Tmall pocketed more than 100 million yuan (US$14.7 million) seven minutes after its opening. Another e-commerce heavyweight,, saw its orders more than quadruple from a year ago.

According to Beijing-based consultancy iResearch, while demand is high, Chinese consumers tend to be rational by caring more about quality instead of price.

The top-five items on the shopping list of consumers are mobile phones, air conditioners, tablet computers, laptops and baby formula., a cross-border e-commerce platform, said consumers are becoming more critical in selecting big names, but were less interested in popular best-sellers.

Cao Lei, director of China E-Commerce Research Center, said that with consumer upgrades going on in China, the e-commerce market has shifted from “price war” to responding to the demands of the affluent and sophisticated middle class.

Putting all those purchases into consumers’ hands is a huge task.

To make fresh food reach consumers in the shortest period possible, Tmall’s cold chain service operates around the clock. Its daily delivery of fresh food totals near 500 tons.

By using smart warehouse, it takes only three minutes to move a parcel out of the depot through automated assembly lines.

E-commerce platforms are using drones to make speedy deliveries. uses augmented reality and virtual reality to offer interactive shopping experience and also uses robots, driverless cars and drones for deliveries.

Xu Lei, JD Group’s chief marketing officer, said retail sales will be driven by changing consumer habits and technology upgrades.

The mega-spending spree came as China’s economy is slowing down as the world’s second-largest economy transitions from dependence on exports and investment to consumer spending.

Growth of property development investment slowed in May for the first time since November, but retail sales grew 10.7 percent year on year in May boosted by strong online sales. China is the world’s largest online shopping market. About 467 million consumers spent more than 26 trillion yuan last year, up 19.8 percent year on year.



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