Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) is the dominant e-commerce play in Asia, and it’s quickly expanding its reach in the physical world as well.
Earlier this month, the China-based company pulled the cover off its new Tmall Supermart. The prototype store requires each and every visitor to first check in and register with their smartphone and a QR code, which links the shopper with their Alipay account. After that, they’re ready to shop, simply placing items in their cart.
Some products even feature “emotional discounts,” which lower the price if the shopper smiles at the item. The bigger the smile, in some cases, the larger the discount. Retail Detail has more details on other BABA innovations in the stores:
The entire shopping area also has smart mirrors, virtual fitting rooms and smart purchase machines that place their own orders and synchronize purchase information with the Tmall web shop. The goal is to allow people to try out new products through the machines and then they can buy those in larger numbers online. The machine indicates which popular products has more stock online or the other way around.
Payments are done in a booth, where the customer shows his face and therefore pays cashless and contact-free thanks to Alipay. Tmall Supermart is entirely focused on self-service, even though that is not a novelty for the Chinese market: Auchan previously launched unmanned convenience stores and Alibaba’s Hema grocery stores lack cash registers.
While Alibaba could keep all this technology for itself, it could also choose to license it to other retailers (and collect fees to use it, along with the customary Alipay payment fees).
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd shares were unchanged in premarket trading Wednesday. Year-to-date, BABA has gained 112.61%, versus a 19.28% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.