We’ve seen the future of shopping for food in China, and it’s not very high-tech. Instead, businesses such as Hema Xiansheng are relying on speedy service and delivery options to keep customers coming back.
Hema (a pun for ‘hippo,’ the brand’s mascot) is a cashless grocery chain owned by Alibaba that advertises delivery times of as low as 30 minutes.
But – at the risk of sounding like an infomercial – that’s not all. Hema’s physical locations are also a major draw, with in-house restaurants and fresh seafood that can be cooked on demand. That’s in addition to an impressive selection of both domestic and imported goods, plus cool features such as barcodes that can be scanned to reveal a product’s origin.
Image via @红餐网/Weibo
Like coffee delivery chain Luckin – valued at USD2.2 billion in April 2019 – Hema’s won a loyal following thanks to unparalleled convenience. The grocery chain has over 100 stores on the Chinese mainland, and is continuing to branch out into China’s second-tiered cities.
Already, there are 13 stores in Shenzhen and nine in Guangzhou, while Shanghai (29) and Beijing (26) have the most physical locations, according to Hema’s official website. In case you’re wondering how you, too, can take advantage of Hema’s rapid rise, we’ve done the dirty work and compiled a how-to guide on ordering delivery below – for purely journalistic reasons, of course.
Naturally, since it’s Alibaba, you’ll need an Alipay account to checkout.
1. Download the app
Search for ‘盒马’ on your phone’s app store and download it.
2. Input an address
Tap the location pin to the left of the search box from the app’s main page to add an address. Select ‘新增地址’ (in blue) at top right to add a new address. Input your details as shown below.
If you’re having trouble saving, you might not be within delivery range. Check the listings here to find the physical store closest to you.
3. Search for groceries
Enter a keyword in Chinese into the search bar, or enter one of the main categories to browse.
From top left, the categories shown are: fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs,, seafood, cooked foods, frozen foods, specialty foods, grains and oil, snacks, alcohol and drinks, healthcare goods, dairy and baked goods.
Just like with food delivery, click the ‘plus’ button next to any item to add it to your cart. Once you’re ready to check out, tap the cart icon at top right.
4. Check out
Select a timeframe for delivery, then tap the blue button at bottom right to check out via Alipay.
5. Wait for your delivery
Congratulations: you’ve officially tapped into the new age of grocery shopping in China.
This article was originally published in July 2018, and has been updated and republished on February 10, 2020.
[Cover image via @盒马/Weibo]