Plans to bring concept to Australia.

Does the future of retail lie in bricks-and-mortar stores or online? According to Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, the answer is both as the company extends its New Retail strategy to the local market after rapid uptake in its homeland.

To showcase how its New Retail concept works, Alibaba recently launched an apartment-style pop-up in Sydney’s Chatswood for one week.

“We want to showcase our technologies and get retailers to start thinking about this New Retail environment,” director of corporate affairs and marketing, James Hudson said. “Alibaba is driving this strategy in China where we believe payments, entertainment, online and offline are all going to merge into one seamless experience for the consumer.”

Alibaba Tmall pop-up in Sydney’s Chatswood 

Hudson says it has been fast moving in China after opening Home Time stores, similar to an Ikea set-up and Hema fresh stores, which first opened 18 months ago. There are now 38 stores with plans to open another 100 stores this year.

“This pop-up has been laid out like an apartment to show off different household items. All of our products have QR codes. The codes can be scanned using the Taobao app to enable consumers to see far more information about the product. In China, Alibaba is producing LED price tags that can be changed online and will be automatically updated. This means pricing offline and online will always be the same.

“If a consumer wants to buy a heavy item, they scan the QR code, buy it in-store or online and it will get delivered to the home.

QR codes allow consumers to learn more about the product

“Our cloud shelf enables retailers to showcase a range of products that they would not be able to stock on the shop floor by integrating with their online platform. A retailer would need to be part of Alibaba Tmall and the Taobao app. We currently do not have a consumer strategy in Australia but the cloud team would potentially be able to work with retailers to integrate the cloud shelf with their own e-commerce site.

“If users click a product, it will provide more information and product reviews. The shelf is fitted with a geotag so it’s basically a virtual reality camera.

“Entertainment is another key factor in the New Retail experience as we want to drive consumers into the store. It also enables various merchandising options for the retailer. Users scan the QR code with the Taobao app, play the game and win coupons and discounts that can be used in the store.

Entertainment is a key factor in the New Retail experience 

“There is anxiety in the retail sector so we believe this is a great opportunity to start thinking about what these technologies mean for them.”

So how will this impact retail staff? “This is not a ‘staffless’ concept. Retailers will need staff in the store to look after consumers. It is also about the employment opportunities created through logistics and technical staff,” Hudson said.

Alibaba also showcased an augmented reality magic mirror that allows consumers to ‘try on’ items including glasses, jewellery, clothing and make-up.