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Technology Retail Artificial Intelligence

Behind Alibaba’s artificially intelligent foray into fashion

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By Charlotte McEleny | Asia Editor

July 30, 2018 | 4 min read

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched its ‘glimpse’ into what the future of fashion is last month, a project it has called FashionAI.

Alongside Italian fashion house Guess, it created a pop-up concept store on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University grounds, to show Guess’s retail experience, alongside Alibaba’s latest AI technology.

Alibaba will now look to integrate the FashionAI technology into new projects and with other brands but The Drum caught up with Menglei Jia, Senior Staff Engineer, Vision and Beauty, Alibaba Group, senior staff engineer, vision and beauty at Alibaba Group, to find out how the collaboration with Guess had been received.

According to Jia, the FashionAI project has been underway for a long time. “FashionAI is a new artificial intelligence concept that aims at exploring new format for fashion stores for the future. We have devoted almost seven years to develop, train and refine this technology that will ultimately create a difference to both customers and retailers.”

As to why brands would look at this sort of technology for the physical retail space, Alibaba says AI technology can drive new customer insights that retailers can use to improve customer experience and efficiency.

“The FashionAI concept incorporates technologies into offline retail outlets that will create enhanced shopping experience for customers. Through the digitalization of different aspects of the store, brands and retailers will be able to gain more consumer insights that will drive sales and store efficiency. We believe the project can also create unprecedented opportunities for the fashion industry in this era of digital transformation,” added Jia.

Jia added that while many retailers are ready to embrace this technology, Alibaba didn’t have a specific time frame in mind for a commercial roll out of FashionAI.

The partnership with Guess spawned from a long term relationship that started on Tmall, according to Jia.

We have over 5 years of strong partnership since Guess set up its Tmall flagship store in 2013. Guess has been one of the most popular brands on Tmall and we have joined hands in rolling out various campaigns in the past two years. The management of Guess is open and receptive to offer a new experience to their customers and the whole project came together in just a few months thanks to our strong partnership. We are delighted that both companies share the same vision to understand customer behaviors through technologies,” he says.

As to what is next for the technology on Alibaba’s side, Jia says the brand hopes to work with other businesses to find the untapped opportunities that AI can create.

“At Alibaba, we hope with the latest AI technologies, like machine learning and computer vision, we can offer many untapped opportunities for fashion retailers. We hope to make available innovative offerings that will deepen our partnerships with brands and retailers, offering imagination and better experience to consumers,” he adds.

This isn’t Alibaba’s first AI-based service that brands and businesses are able to plug into. Alongside the Winter Olympics this year, Alibaba launched its Cloud ET Sports Brain, a set of cloud and AI solutions specifically tailored to sports fans, venues, athletes and organisational bodies.

Technology Retail Artificial Intelligence

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Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate founded in 1999.

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