Innovate like Alibaba!
Image source: Styleintelligence (NRF 2019)
About a year ago STIQ interviewed an Asian supplier who had been contacted by Alibaba. From that conversation we started understanding how Alibaba does its high-street store "innovation" and parts of the processes involved.
Hema (Freshippo) supermarket
In 2016, Alibaba started rolling out its latest grocery store concept - Hema (this has later been renamed or co-named as "Freshippo" due to a potential trademark conflict with Hema in Netherlands).
Freshippo stores are being touted as the very latest in retail technology, showcasing and using artificial intelligence, facial recognition and much more.
However, when you look under the hood at these stores, some of the "innovation" is simply a very clever re-purposing of legacy technology.
Alibaba's innovation process for Hema / Freshippo
Look closely at the Hema stores interiors and you will find some recognisable technology. For example, robots delivering food to customers and bags of online deliveries travelling in the ceiling to a back office location for packaging and delivery or pick-up.
Video source: Styleintelligence, NRF 2019
Compare these robots to the widely used sorting robots you see in video clips such as this
Video source: I Love Robotics
Whilst the Hema robots do not dump the food on to unsuspecting patrons, the function is very similar and has been re-purposed for the Hema/Freshippo restaurants.
Image source: Styleintelligence, NRF 2019
In a similar way the system of transporting online picked/ in-store fulfilled orders have similarities to another legacy technology...
Video source: BS Handling Systems
The hanging garment conveyor (here at at ASOS) looks very similar to the way picked orders are handled in Hema/ Freshippo stores... and yes, according to our sources it is a re-purposing of the exact same technology.
How can you innovate more?
So, you may ask yourself - how can I use this to my advantage? Well, the main thing is a strong PR division or agency. Re-purposing technology is nothing on its own, but you also need to create a story around it.
Alibaba manage the PR for its Hema/ Freshippo stores magnificently. However, they also have the advantage of being... Alibaba... and having the world's eyeballs fixed on its every move.
Alizila is Alibaba's own PR website covering everything that has to do with all parts of the group's activities.
Image source: Alizila.com screenshot
You need to incorporate your PR function in the storytelling of your technology. This does not have to be done up front, but make sure the dots are connected!
Image credit - front image from ejInsight.