data e-commerce product Retail

VF teams up with Tmall to bolster product offering in Chinese market

VF Corporation has partnered with Tmall’s Innovation Center (TMIC) to up its offering in the Chinese market through the use of consumer insights and analytics.

The collaboration is aiming to give the retail group behind brands including The North Face, Vans and Timberland, access to Alibaba-owned Tmall’s 654 million-strong customer database.

The goal is to identify customer trends faster, build customer data profiles, track products to judge how well they’re selling and design new lines tailored specifically to Chinese consumers.

Other brands within VF, including Kipling and Dickies, have already made use of the insights. Kipling launched a new backpack following consumer testing, which resulted in it becoming a top-seller among all items debuted by the brand this year.

Dickies meanwhile is making use of chatrooms within the Tmall app to conduct focus group discussions and have users share photos of how they style their items. The results are helping the brand design a new clothing line appealing to Chinese street style.

Any product that launches out of TMIC will be sold exclusively on Alibaba for a period of time.

Alibaba is using Tmall’s Innovation Center to lure western brands interested in the Chinese market. With no private-label products (like Amazon’s), brands don’t need to worry about Alibaba’s customer database being used to undercut their sales on the platform in the same way.

VF is the first fashion company to collaborate with TMIC, but other brands like L’Oréal, Unilever, and Mattel have also worked with the company on product development. Last fall, Alibaba partnered with 10 global market research powerhouses such as Nielsen, Euromonitor International, Ipsos, AdMaster and GFK, to broaden TMIC’s reach.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

e-commerce Editor's pick Retail

Alibaba expands Singles Day for 2018 with new retail strategy beyond China

Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba
Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba

Alibaba’s annual mega-sales day, known as Singles Day, is set to be bigger than ever this year as it introduces its “New Retail” strategy, which further connects online and offline shopping.

The event, which takes place on November 11 every year, is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, with the ambition to top last year’s record-breaking $25.3bn revenue in 24-hours. The focus will be on expanding scale and reach, according to the e-commerce giant, which includes moving beyond its home in China.

“Over the last two years, we have pioneered the concept of New Retail to accelerate the digital transformation of the offline,” said Alibaba’s CEO, Daniel Zhang.“We are excited by the impressive results achieved to date and will continue to be the driving force innovating for merchants and customers in the coming decades.”

As for geographical reach, platforms in the Alibaba ecosystem (TMall World, AliExpress and Lazada) are focused on bringing the event to overseas shoppers. Lazara, for example, will host its own festival for customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Moreover, Alibaba’s TMall plaform is already offering 500,000 items for pre-order as of October 20, following a see-now-buy-now fashion show on the same day, which enabled the company to respond to any insights on demand.

This year also includes a new focus on independent retailers. The retailer is working with 200,000 mom-and-pop shops which have been upgraded with Alibaba’s technology tools, such as AR-enabled discounts in-store and online promotions. 

Other brands including L’Oréal and Starbucks have also announced plans in place. L’Oréal China will launch a series of pop-up stores allowing customers to interact with virtual mirrors using AR and AI as well as vending machines, according to Hagen Wuelferth, the beauty group’s chief digital officer.

The shopping day’s extraordinary growth over the past 10 years aligns with China’s appetite for digitally-enabled experiences, which have not reached the same level in the West.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Editor's pick Retail technology

Alibaba trials facial payments giving shoppers discounts for smiling

Alibaba's facial payment technology
Alibaba’s facial payment technology

Alibaba is trialling a ‘happiness meter’ in its new Futuremart store at its Hangzhou, China HQ, which gives shoppers discounts depending on their mood.

The feature works with the facial recognition payment technology the retail giant has been developing over the past couple of years at participating retailers.

Upon entering the store, customers must check in by both having their faces read, and scanning a QR code with their Alipay, Taobao or Tmall apps, to allow them to shop. Upon leaving, they then have their faces scanned one more time, which in turn will use the “Happy Go” feature to reward discounts for those who are smiling.

Alibaba has been making strides in developing consumer-facing facial recognition technology, famously launching its first smile-to-pay feature at a KFC restaurant in the same Chinese city in 2017.

The strategy also involves major investments in two out of the three facial recognition startups in China, all of which are valued at over $1 billion. This month, it led a $600 million investment round on SenseTime, a Hong Kong-based company whose software is used by businesses, and SNOW, a popular Snapchat-type of app that uses SenseTime to power augmented reality visuals. Its most important client however is the Chinese government, which deploys the technology in public spaces and compares ‘live’ faces against an existing database.

As noted earlier this month, Asia has leapfrogged the West in terms of technologically-enhanced retail experiences, partly due to the Asian consumer’s ease of adoption of technologies, particularly in China. In the US, Amazon Go’s just-walk-out technology was initially met with some skepticism, noted during this year’s Shoptalk by Gianna Puerini, VP of Amazon Go, who said consumers are having to learn the behavior of not having a traditional checkout experience.

As pilot concepts develop both in the East and West, it will be interesting to watch this space to see which will eventually be deployed at mass scale in order to enhance the physical experience.


Alibaba unveils exclusive luxury pavilion courting super-wealthy Chinese shoppers

Burberry's official Tmall flagship store
Burberry’s official Tmall flagship store

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group today launched the Luxury Pavilion, a brand new section within its business-to-consumer site Tmall for premium and luxury brands. The initiative is part of a broader bid, according to Alibaba’s news site Alizia, to push forward its New Retail initiative in the luxury arena to reach out to the country’s super wealthy online shoppers.

The new platform currently features a wide range of products from apparel, watches, beauty and cosmetics, and luxury auto from brands such as Burberry, Hugo Boss, Maserati, and the LVMH-owned brands Guerlain and Zenith. Notably, these labels have already had flagship stores on Tmall.

The timing of the launch of Luxury Pavilion is interesting considering that the country’s second-largest e-commerce company,, recently announced it was speeding up its foray in the luxury industry with a partnership with Farfetch. In June, invested $397 million in the leading British luxury e-commerce platform, and the new partnership welcomed its first comer, Saint Laurent, the high-profile French luxury label owned by the Kering Group.

Patrice Nordey, the Founder and CEO of the Shanghai-based luxury consulting firm Velvet Group, said the project follows the investment of Alibaba into in July 2015.

“The deal between Alibaba and the fashion private sales company included the development of a luxury platform,” Nordey told Jing Daily over email.

Part of the team of joined Alibaba to prepare the launch of Luxury Pavilion. Alibaba invested more than $100 million in the flash sales luxury site in July 2015.

Banking on exclusivity

As evidence that “exclusivity” is a highly important element for Chinese luxury spenders, Alibaba has made Luxury Pavilion an invite-only platform. According to Jiemian, a domestic media site, out of Tmall’s 500 million total users, it selected a limited number of consumers who are either ultra rich or are members of APASS (a Tmall members club for top online shoppers based on their annual purchasing records).

“Exclusivity is key to this project,” Nordey said, “hence the invitation-only business scheme to onboard luxury brands on the platform.”

The entry-point to the online Pavilion, which is located on the Tmall website, is only viewable to this select group of customers. However, while the front-end of the new luxury area is separate for consumers, the back-end will be connected to the Tmall platform, allowing the company to fully leverage synergies, such as traffic building.

A customised shopping journey

The Luxury Pavilion also aims to offer a customized shopping journey to users. Alibaba told Alizia that the new platform is nothing like the current Tmall and Taobao Marketplace that are still mass-facing. Based on the personal information of consumers, it will create personalized homepages, customized brand pages, product recommendations, exclusive VIP awards and individual post-purchase customer service to align buyers’ expectations with luxury brand offerings. The new platform will also be more interactive, imitating the real in-store shopping process, thanks to advanced technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Testing a ‘new retail’ model

The Luxury Pavilion ultimately attempts to test out the “new retail” business model, an innovative concept that has been engineered by Alibaba in recent years and utilises new technology to deliver a more tailor-made and interactive shopping experience to consumers from online to offline (O2O).

“Luxury brands increasingly want to use new retail technology and consumer insights to connect with younger consumers, as well as drive business-model innovation,” Liu Xiuyun, the head of Tmall’s fashion unit, said in a statement.

Alibaba will provide brands on the platform with a number of marketing and branding tools that allow them to effectively engage with Chinese consumers and connect online sales to offline commerce. After its summer warm-up period, the Luxury Pavilion plans to organise a grand opening by the end of the year.

By Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.

Blocks e-commerce

Alibaba’s Taobao gets serious about luxury


Alibaba’s getting serious about the quality of the goods on its platforms and wants to attract more high-end brands. How’s it going to do it? The poacher is turning gamekeeper. The e-commerce giant frequently criticised for allowing counterfeit or low quality goods onto its sites is teaming up with four third-party inspection agencies to boost the quality of products sold on its C2C Taobao site.

The company has already boosted the high-end credentials of its B2C platform Tmall and last year Burberry became the first luxury brand to open a virtual shopfront there (as pictured below).

Now it’s Taobao’s turn. The aim is to help Taobao satisfy consumer demand for better quality and also help local manufacturers improve their offer. In the process Taobao could shift slightly from its original C2C marketplace concept. As more reputable manufacturers see it as a channel through which they can sell their products (without being tainted by an image of poor quality and rampant counterfeiting) change is inevitable.

Anyway, the four agencies Taobao is linking with all have heavyweight credentials and include Swiss inspection & certification agency SGS, Germany’s TUV, French agency Bureau Veritas, and the China Certification and Inspection Group.


The company is spending billions in order to attract over 10,000 higher quality manufacturers to set up shop on Taobao and it has a target of CNY100bn (that’s nearly $16bn) for such goods.

Earlier this year Taobao set up a vertical channel for high-end Chinese manufacturers and more than 4,500 of them have set up stores already, with sales of over CNY15bn expected by year-end.

The move makes good business sense. Taobao itself has said its growth has been slowing down as it’s struggled to remove low quality goods and counterfeits from the site. It should also reduce the chances of it being sued as it has been in the past. Only this year Gucci owner Kering sued Alibaba, claiming over 2,700 different Taobao sellers were offering 37,000 counterfeit Gucci bags in one month alone.

The challenge ahead for Taobao is huge. Will luxury labels think it’s doing enough? We’ll have to wait and see.

This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

digital snippets e-commerce social media technology

Digital snippets: Burberry, L’Oréal, Macy’s, Adidas, Uniqlo, Google Glass

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:


  • How Burberry has fared in its first days on Tmall [Jing Daily]
  • L’Oréal launches virtual try-on make-up app [NY Times]
  • Macy’s is the first retailer to run Facebook’s auto-play video ads [Adweek]
  • Adidas app to print Instagram snaps on your shoes [CNET]
  • Google’s new fashion-savvy exec can’t fix Glass’ biggest flaw [Wired]
  • Burberry cites integrated marketing activity for revenue growth as EasyJet CEO joins the board [The Drum]
  • Op-ed: Why fashion is the next big thing in venture capital [BoF]
  • Why are fashion brands shying away from Tumblr? [Tumblr]
digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media technology

Digital snippets: Nike, Burberry, Selfridges, DKNY, John Lewis, Burt’s Bees

It was perhaps Nike that was the buzziest of brands over the past couple of weeks, if you take into consideration both the successful launch of its unofficial World Cup campaign, Winner Stays (as above), and the rumoured shift in strategy for its FuelBand wearable device. That latter news reported the brand is laying off 70-80% of the fitness tracker’s hardware team in a bid to focus on software and the NikeFuel metric instead. A further interview with Nike President Mark Parker added fuel to the fire on a big partnership with Apple.

Burberry meanwhile was another brand with various stories to follow. It opened its new Shanghai store to much theatrical, multimedia fanfare; pushed yet another social tie-in via WeChat; launched an online store on Alibaba’s Tmall; and was announced as one of the first brands to advertise using Instagram video. And if that wasn’t enough, Angela Ahrendts just made that move officially over to Apple. “Did you notice?” asked the FT.

Safe to say, some other companies were up to things too. Here are the best of the fashion and tech stories not to be missed…

  • Selfridges launches biggest ever beauty campaign with Google+ partnership [Campaign]
  • DKNY shoppers go product hunting with Awear Solutions chips [FierceRetailIT]
  • John Lewis looks back on British history in TV spot to mark 150 years [Campaign]
  • Burt’s Bees creates promotional messages via appointments in digital calendars [NY Times]
  • What can fashion-tech companies learn from Instagram’s success? Co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom shares his start-up secrets [BoF]
  • Instagram is brands’ best bet for consumer engagement… but not for long [Fashionista]
  • ‘Brand tagging’ mobile apps: China’s next selfie sensation [Jing Daily]
  • Fashion retailers eye up image-recognition apps for smartphones [The Guardian]
  • Microsoft to push into fashion space “like never before” as it boosts commitment to UK start-up community and unveils ASOS as partner [The Drum]
  • Why online retailers like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta mail so many catalogs [WSJ]
  • Crowdemand is like Kickstarter for fashion designers [Mashable]
  • Like a dating site for fashion, PopInShop plays matchmaker for brands and boutiques [Fashionista]
  • The golden era of ‘fashion blogging’ is over [The Cut]
digital snippets e-commerce social media technology

Digital snippets: DKNY, Chanel, Mary Meeker, Karl Lagerfeld, Jaeger, Lululemon

A round-up of recent stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital:


  • DKNY campaign combines art with augmented reality (as pictured) [Mashable]
  • Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report highlights mobile momentum, wearables and digital China [BOF]
  • Karl Lagerfeld opens concept store complete with social media dressing rooms and wearable cash registers [PSFK]
  • Jaeger’s relaunched e-commerce site deconstructed [Econsultancy]
  • Lululemon uses digital to build local communities [L2 Think Tank]
  • Zegna group Tumblr bows [WWD]
  • Sears turning old department stores into data centres [Fast Company]
  • China e-commerce: Why Tmall works [BoF]
  • Six brands that have been busy experimenting with Google Hangouts, including Asos, Glamour [Econsultancy]