At InsightAsia, we’ve always got an eye on the latest tech innovations entering the Asian markets. Find out what happened when we took a look around the latest addition to Jakarta’s shopping scene – an unmanned JD store.
Chinese online retailer JD has just opened its first unmanned store outside of China, located in North Jakarta’s elite PIK Avenue Mall.
Online retail has been growing rapidly in Indonesia in recent years, with the likes of Lazada, Tokopedia and Shopee dominating the ecommerce scene. JD is also competing with global retail giants like Amazon and Alibaba. Launching an unmanned store is therefore a unique way to build awareness and stand out as an innovative online retailer in the competitive market.
Naturally, we felt curious to pay the store a visit. At InsightAsia, we have feet on the ground all over Asia, meaning Anastasia and Arfira from our Indonesian team were able to get down to the mall and find out first-hand how customers are reacting to it.
The store itself is the largest unmanned shop JD has introduced yet, covering 270 square meters. Radio frequency identification (which tracks tags attached to the products), face recognition and in-store cameras match products with the shopper, enabling them to check out by themselves with a credit card.
From our initial research, the JD.ID unmanned store – despite being the only of its kind in Indonesia – is not yet particularly well known. People seemed vaguely aware of the store’s existence, but this could be down to JD’s lack of advertising on social media or through print marketing.
When visiting the store though, we noticed a real buzz around it. Crowds of people were stopping outside the store to take a look, and one customer described the outside: “From the exterior, the store looks futuristic. A big place is expected. Not as big as IKEA, but the concept should be like IKEA.”
It was time to take a peek inside.
First of all, the store’s location at the PIK Avenue Mall places it in a somewhat elite target market – arguably the middle to upper level social economic class. The need for a credit or debit card also rules out children. We found most store visitors to be of the younger generation (age range around 17-30), seemingly because of their high curiosity.
As for lifestyle, we noticed visitors were mostly millennials with an interest in technological advances and an enthusiasm for something new and sophisticated.
The JD.ID store is of course very practical, and it’s great to see technology innovating and transforming basic everyday tasks like going shopping. What other advantages does the unmanned store boast?
A good range of products, organised well
The store brings a lot of what can be found online into a physical shop, and one customer we spoke to commented on this:
“What I like about this store is that I can find products that are usually only available in big malls. Speaking of product placement, I like the way the products are placed because there aren’t many products on the shelves. This makes it easy to choose the product I want to buy.”
A unique experience
User experience should always be part of the consumer purchase journey, both when making purchases on websites or in a physical store, so the fact that JD.ID is so different to other stores in Indonesia makes it an attractive place for Indonesians to pay a visit.
Speed of purchase
When speaking to customers in the store, we discovered that people liked the physical store because it meant receiving items more quickly than if ordering them online.
“I prefer to buy in the unmanned JD.ID store because I can get the product I want right away. If I buy it from the JD online shop, I need to wait for the product to come,” added the customer.
Lack of ‘annoying’ shop assistants
The unmanned store concept is particularly attractive to those who simply want to enter the store, purchase their goods and leave without interruption, as one customer explained:
“I think Indonesian people would enjoy shopping in this store. Based on my experience, some people feel annoyed if there is a shop assistant following them around the store. I think it feels good that you can go around the JD.ID store without a shop assistant following you – you can feel free to make your way around in your own time.”
There are some helpful staff on hand to help with any difficulties entering the store and setting up the mobile app, though.
As with anything new and different, it can take some time for consumers to adjust from what they’re used to. For the unmanned store concept to work and grow in the future, it’ll be essential to address any issues customers may have with the shopping process to make the transformation as easy as possible. So, how could the store be better for customers?
On our visit to the unmanned store, we discovered that shoppers need to be prepared with the following:
- The JD.ID app on your mobile phone – you need to register to become a member
- A debit or credit card that you can connect to the app
Once signed up on the app, shoppers are asked to do a face scan for ID verification. After this, you’ll receive an email with access to a barcode to scan for access into the JD.ID store.
This made entering the store difficult for passers-by, as not everyone had their phone and bank card with them. People need to plan ahead of their visit to the store, and this could have been better communicated through advertising.
Make it bigger and better
When entering the store, we noticed only a few sections, which included:
- Women’s fashion
- Men’s fashion
- Food and beverages
- JD.ID merchandise
One customer expressed a disappointment in this lack of selection:
“The process of getting into the store is rather complicated. Then, when I’m inside, it’s not as sophisticated as I thought it would be. The products sold here are very ordinary and the store is really small – 5 to 10 minutes is long enough to browse the entire store. If the cosmetic section was bigger, that could be fun. But it’s mostly just snacks which we can get from some convenience stores.
“If the store was really big, with a section for snacks, a section for clothes, sections for other things, then it would be better in my opinion.”
The JD online store is well known for its special offers, but there didn’t seem to be so many discounts in the unmanned store.
A customer we spoke to suggested “to be competitive, the store should offer discounts to attract people, especially while it’s still new.”
Into the future
So, will we see unmanned shops gaining popularity and taking Indonesia’s shopping scene by storm in the near future?
One customer answered this question: “Maybe. However, I think it’s not going to happen anytime soon, unless stores like this open in various places. This will allow people to become more educated as to whether they want to shop here or not.”
Unmanned stores are certainly an interesting concept, and as researchers we’re fascinated to see where JD.ID will go from here. We’ll be interested to observe visitor numbers a few months from now, when the initial hype around the store has worn off.
That being said, for the foreseeable future, society needs to be ready for all kinds of change across multiple industries as a result of technological advances – both for practical and promotional purposes. This is just the start.