Tao Cafe' is a newly opened 200-square-meter store from eCommerce giant Alibaba. Hundreds of Chinese customers experienced the store over the weekend at Taobao's Makers Festival in Hangzhou, China.
The cafe sells gifts, knick-knacks, and souvenirs, as well as beverages and snacks.
What makes TaoBao cafe unique is that the store is completely staff less and self-serve. This concept is reminiscent of Amazon Go, their starless store concept, currently being tested in downtown Seattle.
To make a purchase, you download the Alibaba Taobao app. As you enter the store, you're scanned and identified via facial recognition. So, if you're buying a food item, you'd place the order, then a screen with your photo appears, and an estimated wait time.
For all other purchases, as seen in the demo video, you walk in, grab your items and go. As you exit, through a door that looks like much like a metal detector, you're scanned for items. Once you exit, the Taobao app charges your account.
The launch of the Tao Cafe from Alibaba was designed to show off a "new retail" concept. This is Alibaba's way of showing the potential for online shopping experiences to be translated into brick-and-mortar spaces. For now, Alibaba has yet to announce any future plans for more cafes.
"It's not about Alibaba wanting to open more cafes, we are not in the restaurant business...it's about [moving digital users] to an offline store," Chris Tung, CMO of Alibaba Group told Marketing Interactive.
Taobao has a huge share of the Chinese market, with over 369 million people active on its mobile app alone, each month. 150 million of those log on daily.
Posted by John Suder
John Suder is SUMO Heavy's Creative Director and Minister of Propaganda. John is also the co-host of SUMO Heavy's 'eCommerce Minute' show, which airs daily on Anchor.fm.
In his spare time, John can be found prowling the streets of Philadelphia taking pictures of buildings and people.