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E-commerce Update: YNAP Eyes Mobile Future, Eloquii Puts Down Roots & More

E-commerce companies continue to forge new routes to engage consumers—including physical stores, mobile innovations and connected devices—as the path to purchase becomes increasingly fragmented.

Bebe cashes in on its design studio

Bebe has entered into an agreement with Monday Properties Investments to sell its Los Angeles design studio for $35 million. The company retains the right to lease back 12,000 square feet for up to four months, according to SEC filings. The transaction is expected to close by mid-August.

The contemporary fashion chain, which announced it would close all doors in April, was able to skirt bankruptcy thanks to the cooperation of its landlords, which her placated by deals that would exceed what they would have received post filing. In all, the store closures cost the retailer $20 million.

Last month, Bebe entered into a partnership with Global Brands Group, which will allow it to continue forward as an online only retailer in the U.S.

[Read more about how Bebe fits into the Global Brands Group stable: Global Brands Touts Licensing Model, Relaunches Bebe Online]

Yoox Net-a-Porter opens tech hub in mobile push

Mobile first is no longer good enough for Yoox Net-a-Porter. The luxury e-commerce company is gunning for mobile only. The first clue that it’s serious: the retailer’s new 70,000-square-foot, 500-person tech hub in London.

“This is our temple of innovation that’s going to take YNAP into the future,” CEO Federico Marchetti told Forbes.

Currently, 50 percent of the company’s revenue is derived from mobile. By 2020, the goal is 75 percent. To get there, the retailer is investing $567 million in technology and data science. The focus is on artificial intelligence, which allow for image recognition, natural language search and better product recommendations for the power customers that spend tens of thousands of dollars on the site annually and make up 40 percent of revenue.

These spendy consumers will also be able to have access to a higher end version of Amazon’s new Prime Wardrobe. The concierge service will hand deliver product and hang out while shoppers try them on, returning any rejects. At some point shoppers will also be able to virtually try on accessories as well.

“We’re using our own data in a smarter and more detailed way in order to tailor the customer experience to every individual customer,” CIO Alex Alexander said.

Eloquii adds bricks to clicks

After sticking its toe into retail in March with a pop-up, Eloquii is ready to commit.

The plus-size purveyor will open its first stores this year. Two locations—one near the former pop-up in the Washington, D.C. area and one in Chicago—will open in the coming weeks. The third will bow in September in Columbus, home of its former parent, the now defunct Limited.

“Julie [Carnavale, CMO] and I know stores very well,” Steve Zawada, executive vice president and chief operating officer, told The Columbus Dispatch. “We did stores before we went into e-commerce and we know that people still shop at stores, they still go into retail locations.”

To defy the retail meltdown that’s happening in malls across America, Eloquii will focus on service in the form of stylists and two-day shipping for items only found online. Zawada called the approach “back to basics.”

The company’s roll out strategy caps at 40 stores over the next three to four years.

Alibaba bows Echo-like device

The definition of echo is to repeat, and that’s exactly what Alibaba is doing with its new voice assistant device, called Tianmao JinglingX1 (Tmall Genie X1).

The device, which was previewed this week, offers many of the same features as Amazon’s Echo, including the ability to make purchases via (Mandarin-only) voice command.

The launch puts Alibaba behind competitors like Google, Apple, JD.com, which all have similar products already. The differentiating factor though, according the company, is the amount of data it has to draw on for the artificial intelligence underpinning the gadget.

In addition to shopping, X1 has educational, entertainment and fitness-related applications.

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