Alibaba wants to change the way we shop for fresh food off and online

Alibaba wants to change the way we shop for fresh food off and online

Alibaba wants to change the way we shop for fresh food off and online 2048 1536 Altavia

Here comes Hema Market (盒马集市)

Despite its US $ 150 Million investment Alibaba has been quite low-key running the Hema Markets chain… Hema Market (盒马集市) is a rather premium, fresh offline chain here in Shanghai that refuses to label itself as a “supermarket” but rather as an “e-commerce experience store”. Hema Market is like an expanded version of C!ty’super (premium supermarkets). Its main focus is fresh food and dry grocery.

Hema (“盒马”) is a homophone and wordplay of hippo (河马), replacing “river” with “box” –a name associated with other members of the “Alibaba Zoo” (previously they’ve rolled out Tmall — cat, Alitrip — pig, Antgroup — ant, etc).



In early 2016, Hema made the transition from fresh food e-commerce and food delivery to offline markets. They opened their stores in places that are a bit further away from downtown Shanghai. This latest store opened a couple of months ago, located in the busy part of Pudong, underneath the shopping complex Shanghai Bay.



But what makes the Hema Market so particular ? 

  • They are Cashless…(cash looks like a dying king), Alipay being the only payment method allowed.
  • The stores are used for both pick-up and online delivery within the same day only and as fast as within 1 hour.
  • Shopping online with Hema requires the application to be installed on your smartphone.
  • Digital price tags are installed in store for an efficient pricing.



The Hema Market could be divided roughly in two parts: First, a regular supermarket providing dry food (imports and local), pre-packed fruits and pre-packed veggies, dairy, beverages… and, secondly, a third party food and beverage consignment like many food courts that we can find in China.


Hema employees can be seen taking and processing orders from online shoppers. They’re selecting items, packaging them, and sending them off to the delivery department using conveyor belts.




It is interesting to see Alibaba keeping investing on the offline retail, trying new way to #makeretailgreatagain.

Some of my colleagues, here in Shanghai, who tried Hema delivery,  were all satisfied with the prices, efficiency of delivery and quality of the goods they ordered, which for fresh goods is a deal breaker.


Nice place to visit for a retail geek, nice place to have some decent food for lunch, and nice place to see an efficient way of picking in store for online deliveries!


 By Stéphane Joly