Alibaba is building a five-storey shopping centre at its headquarters entitled ‘More Mall’ with a keen focus on merging online tech with offline shopping.

The Chinese ecommerce giant is set to open the mall next April, with construction currently underway at a 430,000 sq ft site near its headquarters in the eastern China city Hangzhou.

The etailer collaborated with Chinese retailer Bailian in February this year on a string on in-store tech initiatives, but this is Alibaba’s first foray into building its own shopping centre.

The Chinese retailer will reportedly roll out a clutch of technology initiatives in the More Mall, including AR-enabled make-up mirrors and virtual fitting rooms.

Expert analysis

  • We believe this mall will be a testing ground for experiential retail concepts. Alibaba’s long-term goal of digitalising retail will not involve retailer buyouts, as per Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods, but will instead see it leverage its technology and data expertise to upgrade other retail formats and help partnering retailers execute more effectively. The More Mall will be an ideal venue to trial using a variety of technologies (AI, AR, VR) in real-world retail concepts to identify models that can be rolled out across the wider retail universe.
  • Our thinking is that More Mall will focus on higher-end concepts and brands, with an elevated shopping experience at its core. In contrast to the mom-and-pop franchising initiative announced recently, More Mall will showcase premium products in an environment designed to engage and entertain the shopper. Alibaba is keen to capture high-end spend, as evidenced by the recent launch of its Tmall Luxury Pavilion and the tiered 88 Membership scheme. Higher spending Chinese shoppers increasingly demand enhanced experiences, both online and offline, and More Mall will be crafted to deliver these.

Howard Lake is senior editor at Planet Retail RNG

Alibaba unveiled an outlet testing these technologies in June called the New Retail Interactive Store as part of the retail group’s wider strategy to merge online and offline logistics and data to transform bricks-and-mortar retail in China.

The online giant said that its aim was to digitise the 85% of sales that are made offline in China.

The retailer’s More Mall will sell a variety of products available on its Taobao ecommerce platform and will also include a Hema, the Chinese retail group’s grocery store.

Alibaba completed a roll-out of 13 standalone Hema stores in June, which boast 30 minute deliveries, cashless checkouts powered by Alipay and barcodes that provide product information when scanned.