Trend Alert: Alibaba’s Hema stores

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

You thought Amazon Go was futuristic? Just wait ‘til you see what supermarkets look like in China.

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, often considered the Asian equivalent to Amazon, is one of many digital-first retailers moving into the physical world. Their grocery store concept Hema (not to be confused with the Dutch chain of the same name) is causing quite a buzz on social media as visitors marvel at all its cool innovations.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Locals can have goods delivered within 30 minutes of ordering. Visitors to the store will see products being taken away on overhead conveyor belts.

  • Fresh products are only on sale for a day to guarantee freshness, but don’t worry about food waste - anything not purchased is transferred to the in-store restaurants and food preparation areas

  • Digital screens on each aisle provide customers with product information, show similar products and the most popular items in the aisle. You can even get recommendations personalised to your age group.

  • Prices are displayed on electronic price tags, which update based on supply and demand. This is great for bargain hunters, but not so good if the product you need is running low.

  • If you can’t wait to eat the tasty things you’ve picked up in store, you can have it cooked up for you at the restaurant - ideal for those who aren’t so capable in the kitchen!

  • Payment is made at self-checkout kiosks which automatically recognise each product, removing the need for barcodes. Customers are charged to their Alipay accounts, Alibaba’s version of Apple Pay.

So far Hema has 50 locations in China, but there’s no doubt it will grow into a successful chain across the continent and perhaps the world. Either way, retail execs will be flocking to the store to get inspiration and see the future of their industry in person.

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