A look at the technology behind the AliExpress Pop-up Store

The AliExpress pop-up store was a showroom concept for ‘neither stock nor label’ products. What can you tell us about the customer experience?

The store had a great look & feel, but the big surprise was that the articles on display did not come with any information. You could touch them, turn them over, examine them from all angles, but to find out the details and the price, the only option was to take out your smartphone and open the AliExpress App to access the photo scanner. This opened up a whole new universe designed as an extension to the physical pop-up store. For example, if you found a jumper you simply had to have, the idea was to scan it to access the marketplace which contained all of the product details: price in euros, available sizes, size guide, the garment modelled, etc. 

Although bugs were not uncommon – user instructions are a must to explain how to scan a product and avoid being sent to the wrong page! –, I found the user experience really authentic.

Is Alibaba the only group to use this technology?

Having tried and tested this technology from the outset, I can say that the Chinese giant has always been one step ahead of other brands, in particular Amazon, which also uses this ‘native’ scanner system but with much less mature technology. The photo scanner on the AliExpress App has been the most efficient, the smoothest and the most accurate since its launch. As long as there’s a good Wi-Fi or data connection in the store, of course. I’ve been using this technology since 2014, and I have to admit I’ve always been a fan. The ergonomics of the marketplace and the trove of information to help customers decide on both an emotional and transactional level are what make this tool such a success, in my opinion.

The AliExpress pop-up store was designed as a hybrid venue to test this new type of shopping experience. Was the test conclusive?

The concept store provided the optimum hybridisation of the shopping experience, which I feel was a success. Admittedly, the customer journey between the physical store and the online platform using their mobile may seem abrupt as there is no alternative to the photo scan system in the store, even if you just want to find out the price or the fabric composition. But this is a world apart in terms of the purchasing process, one that is becoming increasingly common in an attempt to win over Gen Z… and subsequent generations!  

The young generation in China may have been quick to adopt this technology, given that they are already adept at switching between off and online via a mobile, but it remains to be seen if Europe and Paris, the fashion capital, are so receptive. How many customers out of those who visited the AliExpress pop-up store ordered online? What was the conversion rate? 

Not being able to try on articles and having to wait several days for them to be delivered may prove to be dissuasive… The numbers will be important for future development, which is in all likelihood the reason behind this novel ephemeral test. Although I think that the short 3-day opening of this pop-up store is also indicative of a tech lab test phase and an opportunity to promote talented Chinese designers. And of course AliExpress’s goal to break into Europe on the low-cost fast fashion market.