Alibaba Group debuted its first “FashionAI” concept store on Wednesday, demonstrating a stress-free way to shop with the help of artificial intelligence.
The pilot store, open for a limited time only from Thursday through Saturday at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, showcases Guess apparel through innovations such as “smart mirrors,” which display product information on a nearby screen when shoppers are touching or picking up a garment. The smart mirror also makes mix-and-match recommendations and points to where the suggested items can be found in the store, so shoppers can try on a complete outfit at one go.
In addition, each item has its own intelligent lock, supported by radio-frequency identification, gyro-sensors and Bluetooth low-energy chips. This allows the mirror to more accurately capture movement and spot the colors, styles and attributes that are most popular among customers.
Currently under development by a New Retail-focused research team at Alibaba, the FashionAI initiative taps technologies ranging from machine learning to computer vision to “learn” from consumers, designers and fashion aficionados within the e-commerce giant’s ecosystem. These insights include images of more than 500,000 outfits put together by stylists on Taobao, as well as expertise shared by brands, Alibaba said in a statement.
“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,” Alibaba Group Vice President Zhang Zhuoran said.
Zhang said investments over the past seven years have contributed to the system’s capabilities in recognizing clothing and spotting fashion trends, helping it go beyond recommending items one at a time to suggesting mix-and-match options to complete the look.
“This is a major step. This is would be the equivalent of consumers having their own personal stylists,” he said.
FashionAI’s recommendation capabilities expand beyond the limits of a brick-and-mortar store. Alibaba plans to release a new “virtual wardrobe” feature on its Mobile Taobao app, which would allow shoppers to view clothes they’ve tried on in-store, as well as mix-and-match recommendations across brands that include items from more merchants on Alibaba’s shopping sites, Taobao and Tmall.
Alibaba also looks to take the hassle out of trying on clothes. In the concept store, shoppers won’t need to carry around items at all. They can simply use the smart mirror to add them to their virtual shopping cart, alerting the staff to prepare the selected garments and accessories for them in a fitting room. If shoppers want to try an item in a different size or color, they can update their selection on the fitting room’s smart mirror, and the staff will bring the new items right away.
U.S. fashion brand Guess sees potential in the model for enhancing the in-store customer experience and informing business decisions, ranging from product selection and inventory management to dressing mannequins at its window displays.
“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,” said José Blanco, CEO of the Greater China market at Guess.
“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.”
Guess expects to rev up its stores with FashionAI technology in the near future, with an eye on mainland China and Hong Kong as first stops, Blanco said.