Robots and AI will replace humans in retail one day: JD.com chief

AI robots humans
JD.com founder Richard Liu. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

MADRID (Reuters) – Robots will eventually replace human workers in the retail industry, the chief executive of Chinese e-commerce company JD.com predicted on Tuesday.

China’s second-largest e-commerce business has built up an extensive logistics network and is investing heavily in drones, robotics and automation.

“Sooner or later, our entire industry will be operated by AI [artificial intelligence] and robots, not humans,” Richard Liu said retail executives at the annual World Retail Congress in Madrid.

JD.com has expanded heavily into luxury goods, apparel and offline retail over the past year in an effort to tap new consumers, echoing similar efforts by bigger rival Alibaba Group Holding.

However, Liu said he thinks it will take another decade for technology and shoppers to be ready for fully automated stores.

“We have to make a lot of innovation every day and never stop … Reduce cost and improve customer experience. That’s all,” Liu said of his business philosophy.

Amazon.com opened its first checkout-free grocery store in January.

Liu also said that Western retailers were shielded somewhat from the sector’s rapid pace of change by the loyalty of their customers, in contrast with China, where shoppers prefer to try something new and are more demanding in terms of delivery speed.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by David Goodman)

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