JD.com has recently been redefining their central strategy, positioning the company as a tech-focused Artificial Intelligence (AI) group rather than just a retailer. CEO Richard Liu even poached the IBM Watson chief scientist Bowen Zhou to head up their AI division.
JD.com is known for their innovative approach to retail. They already use over 40 drones to deliver products directly to over 100 remote villages in China. In contrast, Amazon has talked a lot about their drone research, but doesn’t have real operational drones delivering to customers right now.
JD.com’s AI strategy is serious and matches the ambition of global technology giants such as Microsoft or Facebook. The company has over 12,000 engineers based in both China and Silicon Valley, California, and they see the development of AI as a central focus on their business today.
To many customers, it may not even be clear how AI has influenced their purchase. The system can change the way that products are presented to customers and can even change product descriptions based on customer preferences. If a purchase is marked as a gift they even have a bot that can write a personalized poem to be included with the gift.
The AI-first approach is also deployed to help the logistics process. Delivery trucks are routed by the system in the most efficient way possible and many of these processes are available as a service for other retailers. In fact, JD.com has already teamed up with Fung Retailing in Hong Kong to work on AI solutions that can benefit both companies. This partnership allows JD.com to move beyond the solutions needed for online retail as Fung Retailing has over 3,000 stores in Hong Kong and overseas.
Some of the ideas now being explored include virtual clothes fitting, stores without staff, and smart shopping assistants that can offer personal advice based on the preferences and shopping history of the customer.