‘New Retail’, the concept of seamlessly blending the on and offline worlds to offer consumers a tech-supercharged customer journey, will be a key feature of this year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. It brings technological innovation to bricks and mortar outlets and turns online and mobile shopping into entertainment as well as commerce. 

At Alibaba, we’re already bringing our technological expertise to the offline retail world in China; applying smart goods and logistics management, high-powered online marketplaces, artificially intelligent personalisation, and much more. We’ve now been able to take this technology a huge step further, and are always refining our systems to deliver on consumers’ fast shifting demands.

To understand what ‘New Retail’ can offer, it’s useful to see the changes we’ve made in our home market. In China, we are digitally transforming local shops and big malls – which still represent 82% of the retail market there. We relentlessly apply smart data and technology, learning from the immersive experience at our Hema grocery stores where the integration with Alibaba’s ecosystem enables a completely seamless online and offline experience. The entire store is digitised, allowing consumers to not only order online, but physically scan every product in store to find information about it as well. Items can be delivered to your door following purchase, groceries can be cooked and eaten in store with friends, or you can choose to take them home. Hema goes above and beyond with consumer engagement, leveraging consumer data like purchasing habits and store visit history to provide an even greater personal experience.

The 11.11 Shopping Festival, held over 24 hours on 11th November, will also showcase some of the other phenomenal smart stores and tech-enabled pop-up shops that are part of this ‘New Retail’ trend.

One hundred thousand smart stores across China now allow merchants to take data insights, for an improved and tailored shopping experience. The stores sell brands such as Gap, Bose and Jack Jones, using RFID tags, facial recognition, location based recommendations, online coupons and integrated online-offline memberships to pull together the immersive and targeted experience that Chinese consumers seek.

Meanwhile, pop-up stores selling brands from P&G, L’Oreal and beyond are using magic mirror technology to allow consumers to try on clothes and makeup virtually, as well as augmented reality product information displays with live coupon provision. And numerous corner stores will apply predictive merchandising and smart logistics to stock the right products at the right time.

Entertainment is an integral part of this year’s event – the Chinese consumer values a social experience as much as the items they purchase. Through a blend of physical and virtual, we’re using technologies like augmented reality to encourage consumers to earn promotion coupons that can be spent in-store via the Catch the Cat game on our apps. This is yet another way to encourage consumers to engage across both the online and offline worlds.

British retailers are starting to see the benefits of this blended model. UK brands on our platforms such as fine tea company Whittard of Chelsea are already reaching Chinese consumers. The addressable market is enormous, with over half a billion users across our e-marketplaces. The Chinese middle class is growing quickly, and estimates show it has aggregate net cash reserves of over $4.6 trillion.

Today, consumers expect an immersive, rich shopping experience, and Alibaba is perfectly positioned to ensure they get this. This year’s 11.11. Global Shopping Festival will be the key to showcasing our technological innovation and turning shopping into a fun experience that really captures consumers’ imagination.