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Alibaba and Guess Partner on FashionAI Pop-Up Concept Shop

Alibaba’s FashionAI pop-up concept store looks a lot like what we’ve seen in Rebecca Minkoff boutiques—and the shopper-friendly blend of physical and digital could signal the way forward for innovative fashion brands.

Located on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, the FashionAI store leverages a shopper’s Taobao ID and profile to bring digital elements into the shopping experience.

“FashionAI embodies our thinking of what the future of fashion retail could look like and an exploration of using technologies to better understand and cater to consumers’ fashion needs,” Zhang Zhuoran, Alibaba Group vice president, said.

Alibaba partnered with Guess to create the FashionAI pop-up. “It’s important that we continuously invest in new technology and platforms. This entire [concept store] project came together in just five months, thanks to a strong partnership between our two companies,” José Blanco, CEO of the Greater China market at Guess, said.

“It is very important to [combine] the insight from fashion experience and insight from technology,” he added. “This is what has really reinforced our partnership with Alibaba since day one—both sides see this as important. The technology itself is good, but you have to learn from expertise and experience, and this is what we are bringing at the moment.”

Customers check in with their Taobao mobile ID and optional face scanning technology offers to personalize the experience even further, according to Alibaba. Once in the store, shoppers browse the apparel, accessories and shoes as they would—except RFID tags recognize when an item is picked up and it appears on the magic-mirror display, where shoppers can see alternative sizes and colors. To try on an item, the customer simply adds the item to her virtual Taobao shopping cart and continues browsing the shop without carrying multiple items around. The smart mirror also displays styling recommendations, suggesting additional items that coordinate with the first item in complete-the-look outfitting ideas.

A shopper checks out some new styles in Alibaba's FashionAI pilot store with Guess.

A shopper checks out some new styles in Alibaba’s FashionAI pilot store with Guess.

Alibaba said it tapped into fashion advice from Taobao stylists, who submitted 500,000 head-to-toe-looks, to finetune its outfitting engine, which also leverages machine learning and computer vision to understand consumer tastes and style preferences. The firm also gathered insights from its fashion brand partners to get a sense of which apparel and accessory items mix and match well.

Zhang described this advancement in outfitting technology as “the equivalent of consumers having their own personal stylists.”

Behind the scenes, employees are notified when the shopper selects the items she wants to try on and then deliver the products from the stock room to her fitting room. Alibaba said the FashionAI store’s real-time analytics enable staff to move much faster and even aid brands in managing and maintaining their inventory—no more clothing and shoes scattered all over the store, out of place and difficult to account for.

Next, a staff member scans the shopper’s Taobao ID to gain access to the fitting room, which also connects her profile to the magic mirror within and displays the items she’s trying on. She can use the smart mirror to request additional sizes and service. Right from her fitting room, she can check out using her Taobao account or save items for consideration later. Alibaba said it plans to create a virtual wardrobe so consumers can re-visit items they’ve tried on in store and coordinate their styles with items from its portfolio of brands across Taobao and Tmall.

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