Finance

Chinese internet giant opens stores in the Netherlands: Ochama

In a normal supermarket you put your groceries in your shopping cart yourself, but at Ochama you pick up your groceries at a collection point. They come to you via robots, after you have scanned a QR code that you received when you ordered online. You must first become a member (for free).

Food and non-food

At Ochama you can do your daily shopping, such as rusks and peanut butter, but also tomatoes or kiwis. You can also go there for non-food, such as toys, running clothes and shower gel.

So one stop shopping, in principle you no longer have to go to other stores. Initially, the range is limited to 7,000 different products, which will be expanded in the coming months.

Delivery, but especially pick up

To start with, Ochama is focusing on four stores: those in Leiden and Rotterdam are already open, those in Diemen (near Amsterdam) and Utrecht will officially open their doors soon.

But shopping is actually too strong a word. It’s about pick-up points, pickup points, as Ochama says.

Testing the market

There you can pick up the items you ordered online. If you order before 11:00, you can do it the same day. If driving to a pickup point is too far, you can also have it delivered at home, but Ochama bets on pickup.

The four stores that Ochama is starting with are located in different types of locations. The company wants to find out what works best in the Netherlands. Mark den Butter, chief operations officer of Ochama, says the company has big ambitions, but he does not want to say anything about the plans.

Showroom

The advantage for customers of pick-up is that they don’t necessarily have to be home at a certain time, they can decide for themselves when they come to pick up, says Den Butter. The concept is less suitable for consumers who think that they need something right away.

“Another advantage of pick-up is that Ochama can show customers what we have in the showroom,” says Den Butter.

QR code

Ochama has a central distribution center in Berkel en Rodenrijs, between The Hague and Rotterdam. From there, trucks drive twice a day to the pickup points. There you can pick up the items you have ordered and Ochama does not need a lot of staff for that.

The pickup points are almost fully automated. You can scan the QR code you received after your order and a robot will ensure that you get your things.

A lot of data

Retail experts are divided on whether Dutch consumers are waiting for this. Because consumers have to become a member and order online, Ochama receives an enormous amount of data, says Kitty Koelemeijer, professor of Marketing & Retailing at Nyenrode Business University. If you have data, you can make more targeted offers to customers.

Automation and click and collect make a huge difference in costs, she adds. Den Butter also says that it wants to be at least as cheap as its competitors. You will also receive a 10% discount on your next order.

And deep pockets

Koelemeijer points out that as part of the Chinese JD.com, Ochama has deep pockets and can therefore afford a lot financially.

JD is worth about 95 billion euros on the stock exchange. That is less than Alibaba’s 300 billion euros and Amazon’s 1.4 trillion euros, but it is certainly a powerful player. The stock market value is three times as much as that of supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize.

‘Saves time’

Pick up points are not that crazy, says supermarket expert Erik Hemmes. After all, more and more local shops are opening, which are close to consumers.

“In addition, time is a very important factor for many Dutch people,” he says. This is important for young people who both work and have children, Hemmes thinks.

Doubts

But not everyone is so enthusiastic. “I wonder if it will be a great success,” says retail expert Hans van Tellingen of store researcher Strabo.

He thinks it is a disadvantage that you have to become a member. “You should make as little effort as possible to get consumers to come into your store and make them buy something,” he says.

‘Can’t take anything right away’

According to Van Tellingen, the fact that you only have a small showroom in the store with products that you can buy at Ochama, but cannot immediately take them with you, is also a disadvantage. “As a webshop, you then do not benefit from the fact that consumers are in your store.”

He also has his doubts about the automated collection system. “That may be successful in Asia, but we like human contact.”

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