Vinexpo partners with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba

Trade show organiser Vinexpo has partnered with China’s Alibaba to promote what the e-commerce retailer calls a “transformational new retail strategy” that could see outlets fully automated, revealing a “Future Bar” concept that uses a robotic waiter to sell wine.

Alibaba’s Tmall new retail strategy supports its efforts to digitise the entire retail operation, merging the best of online and offline commerce for the benefit of both brands and consumers with the aim of making the shopping experience “more personal, more engaging and more convenient”.

Focusing on in-store technology, digitised inventory and supply chain systems, consumer insights and mobile payments, one of the group’s first concepts will be applied within the alcoholic drinks sector in the form of Tmall’s “Future Bar”.

On arriving at the Alibaba Group’s Vinexpo stand at Vinexpo Hong Kong, visitors are greeted by the Tmall Robot waiter, who asks them: “Hey, don’t you want to have a drink?” – in multiple languages.

“The advanced human-computer interaction offers a glimpse of the future for wine merchants and their customers,” a release by Vinexpo stated. “This robot-friendly approach is already being used by many five-star hotels in Mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea and Tmall expects it to be applied elsewhere in the hospitality sector as well.”

Potential customers then enter Alibaba’s booth via face scan, where a choice of three bottles of red wine awaits them. Whichever bottle they choose, Tmall technology will deliver detailed information onscreen, including product history, the winery and winemaker who brought it to market and which foods to pair it with.

The Future Bar also contains touchscreen televisions that display the history of a wine’s home chateau, which links to the chateau’s Tmall flagship store so that customers can order wines online, offering an alternative for brick-and-mortar sellers with limited retail space.

“These are groundbreaking new technological developments in retail that have big implications for the wine and spirits industry – and great opportunities too,” said Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo.

“Our partnership with Alibaba works two ways – introducing them to the wine business and the wine business to e-commerce being the way to develop business in China. Also we are happy to offer our worldwide platform to help further develop Alibaba’s retail strategy for the wine and spirits industry.”

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