Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com elevates the art of retailing with AI research centre

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Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com elevates the art of retailing with AI research centre

JD.com, one of China’s major online retailers, said on Friday that it has signed an agreement with Hong Kong’s Fung Retailing, which oversees over 3,000 stores in both Hong Kong and overseas, to develop artificial intelligence-driven retail solutions and build an AI retail centre.

The centre will oversee and manage cooperative research and development projects between the two companies, as well as facilitate the sharing of information and expertise related to AI between them, the company said in a statement on Friday.

“As one of the largest retailers in the world, we believe that figuring out how to deploy AI solutions is critical to our future success,” said Bowen Zhou, vice-president and head of AI and research at JD.com. “Drawing on Fung Retailing’s global offline retail expertise, this partnership will be important for us as we deliver our retail vision.”

In addition to the AI retail centre, the two parties would also build an AI-driven retail system that could integrate online and offline retail platforms “seamlessly”, as well as the development of an end-to-end system that enables the management of products, pricing, storage, order and payment.

Meanwhile, the development of virtual fitting, unmanned stores and smart shopping assistants would also be on the agenda for the two firms, it said.

“When it comes to the future of retail, and driving the customer experience, AI is an essential component,” said Sabrina Fung, group managing director of Fung Retailing. “Across our retail portfolio, AI is a focal point and this cooperation with JD will, without doubt, accelerate our progress.”

When it comes to the future of retail, and driving the customer experience, AI is an essential component
Sabrina Fung, group managing director of Fung Retailing.

JD.com, along with its rivals in the online retailing scene, has been accelerating its push into developing AI-driven technologies that are believed to able to enhance consumer experience and to better integrate online and offline shopping scenes.

The company announced in September last year that it would put 30 billion yuan (US$4.5 billion) to build an AI centre in a small town in Guangdong province.

Pony Ma’s Tencent, the top shareholder of JD.com, has also opened an AI lab in China’s Silicon Valley, Shenzhen, while in January, Alibaba’s Institute of Data Science Technologies (iDST), the company’s AI research arm, developed a deep-learning neural network for natural language processing that scored higher than humans on a Stanford reading-comprehension test.

Privately held Fung Retailing is the retail arm of Hong Kong’s Fung Group, a major trading, supply-chain management and retail company. The privately held group also comprises listed global merchandise sourcing and supply chain manager Li & Fung, branded fashion and accessories design and distribution firm Global Brand Group, premium menswear retailer Trinity and convenience stores operator Convenience Retail Asia.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

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