E-commerce has been a crucial lifeline for consumers confined to their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak, but even China’s well-developed structures found themselves stretched; JD’s omnichannel fulfilment platform helped ease the pressures.

Demand for products like rice, flour and oil is generally higher offline, but with the number of people remaining in their homes rapidly increasing due to the epidemic, this demand moved online.

JD couldn’t rely solely on the inventory in its warehouses to manage a sudden increase in e-commerce demand for these products, explains JD’s communications team in an exclusive WARC article. (For more details, read WARC’s report: How JD shored up its supply chain when facing COVID-19 in China.)

To address this, JD-Y (JD’s smart supply chain solutions division) turned to its omnichannel fulfilment supply chain innovation program. How this works is when a consumer places an order online, the platform matches the order with offline supply closest to the consumer in real-time and then arranges for a courier to deliver to the consumer along the most efficient route.

For example, if a consumer in Beijing places an order for two large 5-litre bottles of cooking oil and a bag of rice, in ordinary times the products would come from a JD warehouse and then go to a JD delivery station near the customer’s home, from where they would then be delivered to the customer.

During COVID-19, instead of relying solely on the stock in JD’s warehouses, the omnichannel fulfilment platform was able to calculate which brick-and-mortar store nearest to the customer has the items in stock, and then source the inventory from there instead.

During the epidemic, tens of thousands of offline stores in hundreds of cities have worked with JD to fulfil customers’ orders, and the daily number of orders fulfilled through the program has been nearly five times that of a normal day prior to the virus.

JD’s fresh food business boomed: for the entire month of February, sales of fresh food on JD increased 260% YOY. For the same period, sales of the milk and dairy products category increased 86.5% YOY, sales of the instant food and cereal category increased 124.4% YOY and sales of the rice, flour and cooking oil category increased 110.5% YOY.

Consumers who may be more conservative with a preference for ‘touch and smell’ in brick-and-mortar stores were very quickly open to buying food online. For food retailers, this can be good way to provide a faster rollout of e-commerce scenarios.

Sourced from WARC