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When malls try to reinvent themselves with WeChat…

Elisabeth MENANT
Innovation Trends Manager
3 minutes
While the e-commerce boom has led some to predict the death of shopping malls, Chinese real estate giant Wanda Group has teamed up with Tencent, the tech giant behind the WeChat application.  In 2019, they inaugurated an intelligent shopping mall in Beijing. 

The concept

Chinese real estate and technology giants Wanda Group and Tencent have joined forces to create a joint venture and in May 2019 inaugurated a first pilot project: the 36Kr shopping mall in Beijing.

The mall uses technologies developed by Tencent. It is intended to be a place to experiment with “New Retail“, a trend launched by Alibaba with its Hema supermarkets a few years ago. China is experiencing unprecedented developments in retail and e-commerce: grocery stores, shopping malls, supermarkets and hypermarkets are trying to digitize the customer experience in stores with innovations such as facial recognition, digital payments, fast delivery, Big Data and personalized shopping.

Beyond visibility, the association of these two mastodons benefits them in several ways. Quite simply, huge online traffic via WeChat and other platforms for Wanda Group, ensuring that they collect enough data to improve the company’s services. As for Tencent, the company will have access to new volumes of offline traffic and consumption scenarios allowing it to accelerate the implementation of its smart retail strategy and develop new offers. 

If the objective of an intelligent shopping mall seems to come out of science fiction films, it is however good to note that the reality is not always so brilliant: behind the media hype, it is clear that some of the technologies put forward were not working at the time of our visit or had only been present a few months after the inauguration in order to carry out test phases. So “smart retail” is well underway, but the model is not yet ready and many iterations are still to come.

To be continued!

Why visit the store?

A digitalized customer experience

Interactive screens, projected QR Codes, holographic advertisements… As you walk through the corridors of the mall, the digitalization of the place is visible. You can, for example, observe pairs of shoes or a state-of-the-art lipstick displayed in 3D as a hologram around a shop.

Fitting rooms 2.0

In order to make the passage in fitting room less tedious and to regulate the flows, customers are invited in some clothing shops to try on clothes virtually. Specific screens allow them to visualize the rendering of different products on mannequins and make their choice.


Payment made easy in every respect

Customers can pay for purchases in some stores using facial recognition at the checkout or even directly through their WeChat Pay mobile wallet application to pay for parking fees and other purchases.


A play area to relax in

Want to take a break in the middle of your shopping session? The shopping centre (beyond the usual restaurant or café offers) also offers you a play area based on virtual reality: thrills guaranteed!


Elisabeth MENANT
Innovation Trends Manager
To explore with you the transformation of retail with a double approach both editorial and business
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