Taobao, the Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform, has a new presence in Singapore – a physical store at the basement of Funan Mall.
The new venture, done in partnership with local business partner Virmall, is the first Taobao Store in Southeast Asia. And at 6,000 sq ft, it’s 10 times larger than the pop-up at Nomadx last year.
Taobao Store by Virmall will consist of six display areas, showcasing 300 homeware items, furniture and kitchen appliances. Those who are familiar with Taobao’s home and living channel Jiyoujia, Chinese brand Linsy Home (or Linshimuye in hanyu pinyin), and kitchen appliance brands Xiao Xiong and Joyoung, will find their respective merchandise here.
Sky Chen, general manager of Virmall, said that Linsy Home alone has an inventory stocked with 6,000 items, including the paper furniture brand Shibazhi. “The products we have here are just a small peek into the millions of products available on Taobao,” he said. “We will be refreshing the displays continuously.”
Not only will shoppers be able to touch and feel the merchandise before buying, they can also make use of the free virtual reality (VR) station to help them visualise how the items would look in their homes. The VR programme can take on an apartment’s specifications to create an interactive digital mock-up.
Tip: Give the staff your apartment's blueprint, go for lunch or coffee for 45 to 60 minutes, then come back for a "walk" through the digitalised version of your home. It’s like playing the video game The Sims, except you get to decorate your Sims' house with products you find on Taobao.
And there’s good news for those who aren’t able to navigate Taobao’s Chinese app interface. There will be store assistants on-hand to help them select options in terms of colours, designs, and quantities, as well as help them make purchases by scanning the item’s QR code.
Some items can be brought home directly from the store, while large furniture pieces can be delivered in two to three days. Shoppers can also pick up online orders at the Taobao Store.
The decision to focus on household items came from the response of shoppers at Nomadx, said Charlene Zhang, business development lead with Singapore, Taobao.
“We found that many shoppers scanned the trial QR codes for information on electrical appliances, homeware and furniture,” said Zhang.
But wouldn't having a physical store cannibalise online sales? Zhang isn’t fazed. In fact, combining virtual shopping with shopping in real life is what “retail will look like in the future”, she said. “The store will bring to life our vision of seamless integration between online and offline commerce."
Further blurring the line between online and real-life shopping is Taobao’s announcement to combine online and offline promotions for the first time, starting with the 99 Mega Sale on Sep 9 and 10. There will also be flash deals from as low as S$3.90 during the opening weekend of Sep 7 and 8.
Shoppers who make a purchase of S$9.90 and above at the Taobao Store by Virmall will stand the chance to win a Xiaomi TV or Xiaomi luggage at the instant-win lucky draw.
When asked what she would buy from the store, Zhang picked the single-seat swing. "It lets me relive my childhood. It is also perfect for creating a cosy corner for me to sit back, have a cup of coffee and enjoy time with my children," she said.
As for Chen, his money is on the marble-top dining table. "It suits a family of four and the price is only S$310.84, excluding the chairs. That's a good buy for real marble."
Taobao Store by Virmall is located at Funan Mall, B2-04.