Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee carries shopping bags used to fill online orders at an Alibaba Hema Store in Shanghai, China.
The stores double as distribution centers, where assigned employees roam around filling bags with online orders, then place them on a conveyor belt to the delivery center.
Typically, customers within a three-kilometer radius can receive their groceries within 30 minutes, the company said.
Getting customers offline to become comfortable ordering online could be a key pillar to Alibaba’s strategy.
Customers pay through their accounts on Taobao or Alipay, the online payment platform from Alibaba-affiliated Ant Financial. At select Hema stores, customers can even pay by scanning their faces at kiosks.
Connected to a Hema store in Shanghai, Alibaba recently introduced its new, Robot.He restaurant. Inside, customers use their phone to scan a QR code at their table and begin ordering from the menu – all using the Hema app. From there, most dishes, save for large soups requiring a human server, are delivered to tables by robotic devices.