By Manuel Seseña, Country Manager, Iberia
The importance of physical stores to digital only retailers was underlined last month when Alibaba, the e-commerce giant from China, opened its first European store in Madrid. It’s not the first to do that, especially as a route in to a new or growing market which Europe no doubt is.
Amazon is now well in to double figures for physical stores with around 3,000 planned in total.
The Aliexpress store acts like a showroom with over 1,000 products on show, with the check-out conducted via their online portal. It takes up over 700 square metres and separates the experience in to several zones.
Our country manager, Manuel Seseña, went along to have a look.
The first thing you experience on entering the store is the feeling that you are in a showroom rather than a store, Aliexpress have taken the same approach as Apple, creating an environment where you can test the products before purchase making the buying experience more practical and shopper friendly.
The décor mixes bright lights with wood, white & pale green furniture (shelves, big tables to touch and feel the products) and many digital screens the most remarkable the ones embedded in the columns. With big screens panels at the entrance and at the back of the store.
The product offering is a mix of well known brands such as (apple, Huawei, Samsung) however you could find other brands, mainly from Asia, such as mi, oppo, tronsmart, anker, amazfit, these brands are not usually found in traditional retailers. Prices are clearly shown, but keeping with the clean and simple approach, displays are not overrun with product information but everything is available on the scan of a QR code.
The store works like a normal store with around 10-12 employees visible, some of them experts in their particular brand. If you are confident in your purchase you can bypass staff and self-serve, taking the product directly from the shelf to check out.
In summary you can enter the store, be engaged and experience everything you could want from a retailer including, expert and advise or product sampling or you can walk in grab what you need and pay in a quick transaction with no human engagement at all. Whether Aliexpress have found the right balance between quick and convenient and expert and experience, remains to be seen.