Inside Alibaba’s Home Store of the future
Home Times, a furniture store supported by Alibaba Group technology, has opened for business in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Attracting between 1,500 and 3,000 daily visitors since opening, the furniture store is another example of Alibaba’s New Retail model. In recent months, Alibaba has expanded that model out to a variety of sectors, following the success with its hyperlocal Hema Supermarkets, which have shown how analytics and technology can transform traditional grocery stores into a seamless online-offline customer experience.
Over 20,000 items are available for purchase at Home Times, including furniture, kitchenware, home décor, stationery and travel essentials—a majority of which are sourced from merchants already selling through Alibaba’s B2C shopping platform Tmall.
And a phone in hand is all it takes for seamless shopping. Shoppers scan each item’s QR code with their smartphones to see the product name, price, description, and instantly purchase using Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay.
“We have the hardware and know-how to build New Retail-driven stores, and we work with partners that have access to offline channels and expertise in operating physical storefronts,” said William Chen, who heads the Home Times project at Alibaba’s Cloud Retail division. “We provide the technology and Tmall’s pool of consumer insights.”
Tmall analyzes the behavior and preferences of users within a five-mile radius of the shop. Products are then handpicked from these users’ top preferred categories and added to store shelves. This system cuts the time required to source products worldwide for traditional retailers down to a single day, while store offerings will change every 10 to 15 days, added Chen.
Each product has an electronic price tag that can automatically sync prices with the latest seen online, removing the need for staff to manually print and replace the labels.
Large screen displays on the wall allow customers to see their desired furniture and décor in a virtual home setting. This also indicates that Home Times requires significantly less display space, compared to traditional furniture sellers, since products can be displayed virtually.
Home Times is set to open two new branches in Hangzhou by the end of 2017, including one at the In77 shopping center in the Hubin business district and another at an undecided location in West Hangzhou. It plans to open 15 to 20 new stores in 2018.
“We definitely want to open this system to more businesses. Plans to apply our New Retail infrastructure to industries beyond home furnishing are underway,” said Chen.
* Alizila is the Alibaba-funded, but independent news source on Alibaba Group activities.