The Store of the Future – Alibaba & GUESS Collaborate to Reinvent Retail

Clothing on Racks

By Tricia McKinnon

Last July Alibaba, in collaboration with GUESS, opened a FashionAI concept store on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  The purpose of the store was to give customers a sneak peak into what the store of future powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will look like.  The store combined GUESS’ latest collections and retail expertise with advanced AI and other technologies from Alibaba.

Customers checked into the store using their mobile shopping app. With RFID tags purposely built into the clothing hangers customers were able to use their app to see all of the merchandise they looked at during their shopping trip. Merchandise picked up by customers also immediately showed up on smart mirrors located adjacent to clothing racks.  The smart mirrors provided customers with personalized recommendations for how they could mix and match other items with the merchandise they selected. The mirrors also showed customers the location of where complimentary merchandise could be found in the store.  According to Alibaba with “fashion AI you never have to worry about how to put an outfit together.”

The technology in the store also eliminated the need for customers to carry merchandise en route to a fitting room.  Instead when customers enter a next generation fitting room they could see all of the items they have added to their virtual shopping cart and use a touch screen located in the fitting room to indicate which items they would like to try on.  A simple tap on the touch screen alerted a sales associate to bring requested merchandise to the fitting room.  The customer could also simply touch the screen to indicate if they wanted to try an item on in a different size or colour.  The touch screen also provided recommendations for complimentary items the customer may want to purchase based on items on hand as well as previous purchases.   

If customers were not satisfied with the in-store merchandise selection the store also has touch screens that could be used to see other mix and match options from other retailers located on Alibaba’s eCommerce sites.  Later on if the customer was at home they could go through the list of all of the items they looked at during their store visit and easily purchase each one.  The app also tracked items tried on, saved for later, or purchased.  

This store is part of an Alibaba initiative called “New Retail” which is about digitizing stores in China and providing a better customer experience.  Alibaba has invested over $8 billion in the initiative so far.

Speaking about the initiative on an earnings call Victor Herrero, Guess’s CEO said: “this is a unique opportunity for us to collaborate with Alibaba in this experiment in experiential physical retail that we believe will provide us consumer insight that will enhance our e-commerce business.  We are trying to apply a lot of new technology into the retail shop and I think the partnership with [Alibaba] is strong. China has a lot of potential for us in the future and I think we should continue trying to benefit from that.”


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