Alibaba has made no secret of its “new retail” strategy—one that calls for the marriage of online and offline retail worlds with a shopper experience shaped by data and technology. The strategy is intended to provide a seamless shopping experience to customers regardless of whether they are on a desktop, mobile device or in a brick-and-mortar store.
Data supports the idea that consumers in China want to meld the online and offline shopping experience. A survey of digital buyers in China conducted by McKinsey & Company in Q1 2017 found that a majority of respondents were interested in features like click and collect, using QR codes to complete purchases, and checking a physical store’s inventory through an online platform.
As part of its new retail strategy, Alibaba opened three Hema supermarket locations in July, expanding its total number to 13. The stores, first launched in 2015, are a sort of digitalized supermarket that can be found in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Ningbo.
Hema shoppers are encouraged to download the store’s mobile app, which is linked to Alibaba’s other retail services, including its online marketplace Taobao and the digital payment platform Alipay. In-store customers can use the app to scan a product barcode to obtain information or receive recommendations. Once done with their shopping, customers can even check out using the app.
Since the stores also double as fulfillment centers, shoppers within a roughly 2-mile radius of a store can also make purchases remotely using the app, and then have goods delivered within 30 minutes.
Alibaba uses data collected on these shoppers and their app usage to build a more personalized shopping experience, as well as to improve its understanding of a consumer’s online and offline journey.