E-commerce Giants Resort To Automation To Boost Singles’ Day Sales

China’s e-commerce giants, Alibaba Group Holding, has unveiled an autonomous logistics robot, Xiaomanlv, literally meaning “little competent donkey,” to bear the burden of last-mile deliveries.

E-commerce giants resort to automation to boost Singles' Day sales

The world’s biggest online sale event, Singles’ Day or Double 11 festival, could become a testing ground for automated deliveries to limit human contact and consequently prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus, besides boosting the demand for local and international products. 

China’s e-commerce giants, Alibaba Group Holding, has unveiled an autonomous logistics robot, Xiaomanlv, literally meaning “little competent donkey,” to bear the burden of last-mile deliveries.

Developed under its global research initiative, the robot can carry 50 packages and run 100 kilometers on a single charge, drastically bringing down the cost of deliveries and reducing human contact.

Automation has always been a high priority for e-commerce giants companies globally given the online shopping boom. Amazon is also preparing a fleet of drones for fast and efficient deliveries.

More than 200 million packages are delivered daily in China, which is likely to increase to one billion packages in the coming years.

“We are glad to launch our latest mobile delivery robot, which will support Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics platform, to serve communities, campuses and business parks in China,” said Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

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“To meet the strong demand for deliveries for our internal business growth and for the society at large, we have been investing in smart logistics, including logistics robots, for years,” he added.

Innovation during the time of viral outbreaks

During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China in 2003, the consumers faced circumstances similar to those of 2020.

Powered by robust online connectivity in 2003, more than 79.5 million internet users took advantage of JD.com and Alibaba’s nascent e-commerce facilities, making it easy for them to purchase products during lockdown periods. At that time, Alibaba, with about 400 employees, was barely three years into the business.

According to Nielsen Holdings, a data and market measurement firm, the influence of SARS in 2002-03 depended on the categories when it came to consumer goods. The sale of disinfectants, health and nutrition grew, and demand remained strong a year after the outbreak.

In 2004, there was unprecedented growth in yogurt sales, which was up 40 percent on the previous year, mainly driven by demand for more nutritious yogurts. And liquid milk increased by 20 percent as consumers sought out high-protein dairy products.

“In the short run, luxury and durable goods like clothing were affected more heavily than daily necessities like food and beverages during the SARS outbreak,” wrote Nielsen in a research statement.

Today, the number of internet users has exploded to 904 million and e-commerce giants are trying to optimize their operations with innovations like automated deliveries and an enhanced shopping experience like augmented reality, 3D product displays and fast deliveries.

Keeping pace with the demand

The country’s effort to get the virus under control has helped open up the domestic market and boost the economy.  But with the coronavirus pandemic bringing international travel and tourism to a grinding halt, consumers in China are raring to purchase luxury items.

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“There is also a sharp increase in online purchases of imported products due to the impact of the pandemic on international travel,” said Alvin Liu, president of Tmall Import and Export.

“The pandemic has transformed the consumption environment and created new consumption trends with strong and sustained growth in consumer demand for essential items, home and living, and healthcare products even after the pandemic situation has stabilized in China,” Liu added. 

In order to satiate consumers’ demand, over 1.2 million new imported products will be debuted, including those from 2,600 overseas brands joining the Singles’ Day sales for the first time, Alibaba announced.

Last year, the total value of consumer goods imported into China was more than $200 billion. But the share of online consumption was only 6 percent, representing a massive potential for cross-border e-commerce.

This Singles’ Day is likely to boost sales of both local and international products. The sales of imported goods during Singles’ Day, especially from the U.S. and European Union, which is witnessing a second wave of the pandemic in some regions, would help companies there cope with the plunging sales graph.

China’s deep-sea manned submersible dives 10,909 meters in Mariana Trench

China’s deep-sea manned submersible “Fendouzhe,” which means “striver” in Chinese, descended 10,909 meters in the Mariana Trench on Tuesday.

Three divers sent back a group photo with each person carrying a food plate in hand after four hours of the mission.

According to the exploration team, the crew will work for 6 hours in data collection and actual exploration when the vessel reaches the deepest spot.

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That spot, known as the Challenger Deep, is roughly 10,900 meters deep. The water pressure is 110 kPa, equivalent to 2,000 African elephants.

The cabin shell uses titanium, a perfect material with low density and high strength that allows the submersible not only to bear water pressure at 10,000 meters, but also to reduce self mass and expand interior space.

Powered by a lithium battery, the Striver can unload the equipment onboard and pick up samples from the surrounding environment with its flexible robotic arms. The arms can operate at an accuracy of one centimeter, the research team said.

It is more capable than its predecessor ShenhaiYongshi (Deep Sea Warrior), as it can carry three researchers to more than 10,000 meters (more than 32,800 feet) deep, according to the China Ship Scientific Research Center.

China’s submersible family

In June 2012, China’s first deep-sea manned submersible, Jiaolong, named after the mythical sea dragon, set China’s previous diving record by plunging 7,062 meters down the Mariana Trench. Previously, Jiaolong was based on Xiangyanghong 09, a survey vessel in service since 1978.

“Deep sea warrior” is the second manned sub that can reach a depth of 4,500 meters. Ninety-five technology components applied on the second generation subs are domestically made, according to the design team.

It has made 43 dives, and conducted geological, geophysical, geo-chemical and biological investigations and sampling of hydrothermal systems on the seabed since it has put into service.

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