As Amazon looks to swallow U.S. grocery chain Whole Foods, China's tech giants are already digesting hefty bricks-and-mortar deals, taking the lead in the battle to transform supermarket shopping with big data and better supply chains. Samantha Vadas reports
Amazon may have scooped the M&A headlines by swallowing Whole Foods... But half a world away, Chinese tech giants are already digesting hefty bricks and mortar deals - in the world's largest online grocery market. Massive names like Alibaba have been ploughing money into offline, physical stores for years - putting them at the forefront of the 'clicks-and-mortar' revolution. technology correspondent Cate Cadell is in Beijing. SOUNDBITE (English) Cate Cadell, REUTERS, SAYING: Chinese tech firms have a bit of an advantage in that there's not a whole lot of incumbent players in the retail space so in a lot of ways they're quite a bit ahead in terms of investing - we have companies like Alibaba who've invested 9.3 billion over the last couple of years in this enterprise, but at the same time it's also because they have huge payment apps as well, which cover a lot of the country. King of the Chinese payment apps - WeChat - with its eye-popping 930 million users... It's partnered up with mega online retailer JD.com - allowing customers to spend money at the click of a button - using an app that almost the entire country uses every day. Amazon may be the Industry leader in the U.S. But good luck to Jeff Bezos if he ever turns his attention to the world's number one e-commerce market. SOUNDBITE (English) Cate Cadell, REUTERS, SAYING: It's very unlikely they'll be able to compete in China in the same area as Alibaba and JD they're just too big and they have their own payment apps here and that makes it very complicated for them to do. But in terms of India and South East Asia, these markets are up for grabs and I know for a fact that all three of these companies are very interested in these areas. According to analysts, the clicks-and-mortar model is the way forward. Online retailers around the world are getting squeezed by high delivery costs... While physical shops are getting shut down across the board. Many experts say the only way to succeed is to combine them.