Alibaba reveals its high-tech store of the future

Alibaba reveals its high-tech store of the future
Alibaba op Singles' Day (Foto: Alibaba Group)

Amazon Go’s automated supermarkets have not yet arrived, but Alibaba already has its answers ready. The Chinese online retailer has showcased Tmall Supermart, filled with technology: from virtual fitting rooms to facial recognition.

Smile for a discount

The Chinese retail holding presented a prototype of its Tmall Supermarket on 11 November, the Chinese shopping day Singles’ Day and the day it celebrates Alibaba’s major Global Shopping Festival. Everyone who enters the supermarket, has to register with their smartphone and a QR code. This immediately links the visitor with their Alipay account. Once done, he or she can simply grab products and place them in the shopping cart.


Some products have a camera that can read the customer’s mood and Alibaba has also introduced a system of “emotional discounts” for its electronic price tags: if a customer smiles to a product, the price drops. The larger the smile, the lower the price.


Pay with your face

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.


It is still unclear whether Alibaba will launch Tmall Supermart as a supermarket chain. It may sell the formula or develop it for brands, so that they can implement these technologies in their own stores. Alibaba’s goal is to turn the entire retail world into a “phygital” (physical – digital) world.