18 February 2019
Shopin staff are on hand to help customers pack up their purchases. Photo: Tencent Technology
Shopin staff are on hand to help customers pack up their purchases. Photo: Tencent Technology

The ‘store of the future’ from Tencent and Shopin

Hangzhou-based Alibaba rules the e-commerce roost in China, but Tencent (00700.HK) is teaming up with discount department store Shopin {上品折扣} to push a new online-to-offline model that could claw some ground away from Alibaba.

It’s an approach that Shopin CEO Chen Huifeng {沈慧峰} calls the “store of the future” and it’s already up and running at Shopin’s Hangzhou outlet. At first glance, it looks just like an ordinary department store — there’s clothing and accessories for sale and trying on. But amid the Shopin and Weixin signage one thing is missing: There is not one cashier throughout the three-story building. Instead, customers complete the shopping process using their smartphones.

All of the products on sale carry a QR code card, which customers scan with their phones to get product information, including price and stock availability. While in the shop, they can pay immediately or put the items in their online shopping basket.

Have second thoughts? No problem. Shopin said customers can send information about the items to friends or family and ask for their opinions through Weixin. If those friends or family members are feeling particularly generous, they can even pay on behalf of the shopper.

Once the deal is done, shop assistants help customers pack their purchases then and there. If the shopper leaves the store and decides later to buy the product, he can use Weixin to complete the transaction and have it delivered by courier.

It’s not the first time that traditional shopping malls have teamed up with Weixin to get more people through the door, but it’s never been done in such an extensive way. In the past six months, the Rainbow Department Store (002419.CN) and Wangfujing Department Store chains have both entered some kind of strategic cooperation with Weixin.

In Wangfujing’s case, customers can use Weixin to pay for purchases in store or shop at home through Wangfujing’s Weixin account and finish the transaction online before picking up their merchandise at the cashier.

Alibaba, meanwhile, has plowed US$692 million into Intime Retail (01833.HK) in exchange for as much as 35 percent stake of the department store group. But until now, that has led to nothing more than letting Intime’s customers use Alipay as a payment medium.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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