Last week, the Indonesian operation of Chinese e-commerce company JD launched its New Retail platform JDVirtual at Commuter Line train stations in Greater Jakarta Area.
JDVirtual is being described as an offline platform that would enable Commuter Line passengers to buy grocery products, from toothpaste to soy sauce, by scanning QR codes on a type of board installed at the train stations.
The service was launched following the opening of its unmanned store JD.ID X at a shopping mall in North Jakarta.
Considering how much fun I had covering the launch of Go-Pay for offline retailers, I decided to give the service a try.
Even before the train stopped at Gondangdia Station in Central Jakarta on Friday, I was already able to see several JDVirtual platforms in the station.
This came up as a pleasant surprise, as I imagined each station to have just one JDVirtual platform installed. Instead, bigger stations such as Gondangdia have at least four JDVirtual platforms installed on the the third floor, at the area where passengers wait for the train to arrive.
Situated just behind some benches for passengers to sit on, the JDVirtual platform is actually a small-sized billboard, commonly used for advertisements. But JD added a list of grocery products and QR codes for users to scan using the JD.ID mobile app on it.
I decided to buy bread and cooking oil. Opening my JD.ID mobile app, I immediately looked for the QR code scanner feature.
Upon scanning, users will be redirected to a page containing detailed information about the product. After adding the products into the shopping cart, I browsed over the list of available payment options.
In addition to credit and debit card, bank transfer, and cash (at local mini-marts), the platform also enables the use of Go-Pay, which I ended up choosing.
The platform also stated that the products will be delivered to my address within one day, which I found quite disappointing.
On Saturday afternoon, I received a package consisting of a red box (featuring the cutesy image of a white pony) and a shopping bag from a leading bread manufacturer in the country.
So what do I think of the JDVirtual service? I have to say I enjoyed using it. It was both convenient and fun; it is definitely an exciting addition to the Indonesian e-commerce scene.
However, I have not found a very strong reason to use the service on a daily basis.
After shopping at JDVirtual, I purposely visited an Indomaret outlet near my apartment building, and found out that prices on JDVirtual are the same as in this mini-mart chain. Combined with the shipping cost, shopping at JDVirtual will definitely be more expensive for a budget-conscious individual (like myself).
When it comes to grocery delivery service, JDVirtual is definitely not the first to be introduced in this market. Companies such as Go-Shop, HappyFresh, and Honestbee still have the upper hand for me as they offer same-day services. If I had to pay the extra money, then my cooking oil better be delivered as we speak.
As for locations, while JD has mentioned plans to install the platform on bus terminals and airports, I personally think it would be nice to have this service in office buildings.
Also, at 158 centimeters, I found myself struggling to read higher part of the JDVirtual platform, even though it does not stop the QR code scan feature from working. Since the average height of female Indonesians is 159 centimeters, I suspect I may not be the only person experiencing this challenge.
New Retail in Indonesia
JD was not exactly the first startup to introduce the concept of QR code-based online shopping on an offline platform.
In March 2016, online groceries service HappyFresh, women-focussed e-commerce platform Orami, and e-payments startup Dimo partnered to launch a similar QR code-based, three dimensional online shopping stations at a shopping mall in Jakarta.
While the more-developed markets for tech services such as China had seen the entrance of New Retail in the form of unmanned supermarkets and stores, in Indonesia, the new retail revolution seems to begin on the streets.
New retail companies that have been using the ‘on-the-street’ approach include East Ventures’ Warung Pintar, which works together with mom-and-pop stores and street stalls (“warung“) to revamp its services for the digital era.
In addition to offering grocery products, warungs that have partnered with the startup will be equipped with Wi-Fi, charging booths, cashless payment services, and cloud-based inventory management system.
However, Warung Pintar stalls would still require the use of human resources to run transactions and interact with customers.
The same on-the-street approach has also been used by cashless payments service providers, in promoting the fintech service in the market.
For example, Go-Jek’s Go-Pay started out as an in-app feature to pay for Go-Jek’s services, from ride-hailing to instant courier. This year, the company has begun introducing Go-Pay for offline retail payments, including street food stalls.