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Taobao Blends Digital Features into First Brick-and-Mortar Store

Taobao, the ultra-popular online mall owned by Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, has opened its first brick-and-mortar retail store.

“Taostyle” opened in the Hangzhou Kerry Center mall with an initial offering of about 350 products from 20 independent, local fashion labels, Taobao’s parent company Alibaba reported. Popular Taobao brands like Lamps, Roaringwild, Ayuko and THESSNCE are among the first batch of partners, which will rotate frequently. The store’s offerings will be refreshed at least twice a month, based on consumer insights drawn by Taostyle buyers from Alibaba’s multiple platforms.

The store is attempting to blend some of the benefits of shopping online, like a varied and ever-changing product selection, with some of the elements that make shopping in-store appealing to consumers.

Xia Yu, the general manager of Hangzhou Shunhong (which operates Taostyle), said in a statement, “We don’t just want to open a traditional shop to sell clothes. We want to explore a new way of merging online with offline.”

Visual content will play a large role in translating Taobao’s online success to Taostyle. The brick-and-mortar store will feature large LED screens to showcase brands, and each rack will have a small screen where brands can display images and videos that support their product. There’s also a booth in the store where brand reps and store staff can livestream about their products, Xia explained.

Each item will feature a scannable QR code, allowing shoppers to check pricing, product information and reviews while they’re browsing the in-store selection. They can then choose whether to buy online or checkout in person, based on what’s most convenient for them.

Many of Taostyle’s featured brands got their start on Taobao, or grew their businesses considerably on the platform, Xia said. The new storefront will offer them a way to engage with a potentially untapped consumer base that prefers to shop in person, and it will provide them with a testing ground before launching their own brick-and-mortar operations.