Negative narrative about the death of brick-and-mortar took a hit with the headline that Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce platform is building its first “real-world” shopping experience. The five-story shopping centre called More Mall is a strong sign that the shopping mall has more mileage in it yet.

Personal face-to-face customer experiences have always been a winner for brick-and-mortar stores, which deliver value beyond the product.  Offline retail remains to be the consumers preference, and real-world pop-ups and permanent physical locations are increasingly popular for e-commerce retailers to win trust and build their brand.  However, the tech approach is also playing on the strength of convenience.  Alibaba’s earlier venture offline saw staff-less stores similar to the Amazon Go concept, where Just Walk Out Technology detects products that are taken and returned to shelves. The advantages of offline retail are well rooted, but take a technology company attune to the power of data and More Mall could be the crystal ball on a new era of retail.

As virtual reality and AI become commonplace, real-world retail is starting to feel less like the industry we once knew.  At ART Software Group, we have supported a transition into smart shopping centres that leverage business intelligence. Clients using our product Retail Advantage are finding that dashboard-driven retail management is like discovering a new world too.  The harmonious integration of intelligence and human connections is where our experience says real retail is at.

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