In May 2018 Sporting goods retailer Intersport and Alibaba’s Tmall unveiled a co-branded store in Beijing complete with interactive features that offer consumers in China a more engaging and informative shopping experience.
Under the new name “Tmall x Intersport,” the two-story, 1,300 square-meter space that sits in Beijing’s tourist hotspot Qianmen has been transformed into a futuristic megastore. The revamp underscores that more global brands are recognising the power of New Retail—tech-driven retail model pioneered by Alibaba that captures the best of online and offline shopping experiences.
“We believe Tmall is the ideal partner in our endeavour to further our engagement with Chinese consumers by providing them the best-quality and most-fashionable sports goods in the market,” said Victor Duran, chief executive officer of Switzerland-based Intersport.
Established in 1968, Intersport is a leading retailer of sporting goods and outdoor equipment, with over 5,000 branches in 44 countries. It offers iconic sports names, such as Nike, Puma, Reebok, Adidas, North Face and Dynatour. Intersport made its foray into China in 2013 and opened its Tmall flagship store in September 2016.
“These new in-store technologies provide consumers in China an unprecedented shopping experience that is both entertaining and educational so they can have fun while shopping for the exact products that meet their unique demand,” the CEO said.
Currently, Intersport has 24 stores in China with the goal of expanding to at least 100—a combination of bigger flagship stores in major cities and smaller specialty stores—in the next couple of years. “It makes sense to have Tmall technologies to be the link to connect all the stores together,” Duran said.
New Retail Is the New Solution
Many industry watchers have pointed to New Retail as the solution for brick-and-mortar retailers feeling the squeeze from e-commerce. By harnessing engaging technologies, store owners can attract more customers through both online and offline channels. Moreover, these technologies can generate insights to help businesses gain a more-precise view of China’s market trends and customer preferences.
“We are excited to see an extensive range of Tmall’s New Retail technologies and features under one roof in Intersport’s store,” said Jessica Liu, president of Tmall Fashion and Luxury. “What’s even more encouraging is to see our merchants embracing the New Retail concept and exploring its potential. When customers try out these features firsthand, we are confident that they will see the convergence of online and offline shopping as the future of retail.”
Intersport is the latest example of how Alibaba’s New Retail technology is helping brands build up and reimagine their business in China since the push began in late 2015. To date, Tmall Fashion has collaborated with over 400 brands, including top names such as Burberry and Zara, and upgraded over 50,000 storefronts all over China. Liu said the goal is to increase the collaboration to a total of 1,000 brands and help digitise 200,000 storefronts nationwide in the next 12 months.
Educate Your Customers
At the grand reopening, customers were welcomed by an array of state-of-the-art technologies and augmented reality-powered interactive games. For example, the Smart Shelf and the Smart Shoe Mirror can instantly tell customers all the information they need about a certain shoe they pull from the shelf. This way, the customer can make a more-informed decision on whether or not the products fit their individual demands.
Education on how a product suits an individual’s needs is an especially crucial element in the sportswear and gear market in China, said Tom Birtwhistle, director of China digital strategy at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
With a government-led mandate to become more physically fit, and as China gears up to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the 2022 Asian Games, Chinese customers are becoming more interested in adopting an active lifestyle, he added.
“Chinese consumers are massively curious in learning about new brands and products. For new sports they want to be educated on the activity and understand how technical features can enhance their performance,” said Birtwhistle.
Birtwhistle’s research indicates growth in the athletic fashion category is outpacing China’s overall fashion market. The segment is forecast to see 9% growth annually in sales between 2017 to 2020, versus just 4% for men’s and women’s fashion.
At the smart megastore, shoppers can also get wardrobe tips from an AI Shopping Assistant–an interactive mirror that recommends related accessories or items that complement the article of clothing they are trying on.
Can’t find what you want in the store? No problem. The megastore is equipped with Cloud Shelf technology, a virtual shelf that quadruples the volume and production selection customers can choose by simply tapping on the touchscreens, according to Tmall.
A 24-hour interactive window display at the store’s main entrance means people can shop at the megastore around the clock. By using motion-sensor technology, the giant screen wall can distinguish the gender and approximate age of the passersby and recommend the best type of shoes for that person.
Those who don’t want to lug heavy shopping bags or bulky shoe boxes around the streets of Beijing can opt to have their purchases delivered to a designated address anywhere in the country. Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics service, can make the delivery in as quickly as two hours for locations within five kilometers of the store. Next-day delivery is also available for locations outside of Beijing.
By scanning the QR code of a product on their phones, customers can also place the products in their Virtual Shopping Bag, so they can still buy the item online after they leave the store.