Alibaba Expands Retail Tech Solutions to Europe; UK Consumer Confidence Declining

RetailTechNews rounds up some of the biggest stories in the European retail technology space. In this week’s edition: Alibaba Launches Retail Tech Offering in Europe; Decline in UK Consumer Confidence ; and AiFi Releases Data-based Supermarket System.

Alibaba Launches Retail Tech Offering in Europe

Alibaba’s cloud computing arm launches eight new products ranging from big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to infrastructure, security and private cloud solutions, aimed at providing cloud computing and AI services on the European market.

Among the new products are image search solutions that bring together online and offline image search, a chatbot solution for businesses, as well Alibaba’s data engine, dubbed ‘Dataphin’. Image Search has already been tried and tested in a number of scenarios in China including New Retail, converging online and offline retail. According to Alibaba, the intelligent service robot served more than 40 million customers in a single day during last year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, while Dataphin is now managing 95% of the entire Alibaba Group’s data and driving all types of data intelligence innovations within the group’s business ecosystem from retail to finance, logistics, transport, and health.

“Alibaba Cloud wants to be an enabler for technology innovation in Europe helping enterprises do business”, says Yeming Wang, general manager, Alibaba Cloud Europe. “The decision making around how a business is to operate in the digital age is increasingly a strategic one. To meet their changing needs, we are able to leverage our practical experience of digital transformation and successes accumulated in China to the benefit of European enterprises.”

Decline in UK Consumer Confidence

According to GfK, consumer confidence dropped one point in February 2018. “Ongoing concerns about sluggish household income, rising prices paid by consumers in the shops, and the prospect of inflation-busting council tax and interest rate hikes has dented confidence after last month’s surprising rally. The two-year trend of negative sentiment – the Overall Index Score has bounced between zero and -13 since February 2016 – proves consumers feel pessimistic about the state of household finances and the wider UK economy”, says Joe Staton, head of experience innovation UK, GfK.

The result is decreased spending, also mirrored by the drop in the Major Purchase Index and a sluggish start in retail in 2018. “Despite positive news about upgraded growth forecasts, and the promise of higher wage increases this year, confidence will remain subdued until we feel the positive impact on our purses. Consumers have good reason to feel jittery and depressed”, Staton adds.

Three of the five areas measured by GfK reported decreases in February 2018, while one stayed at the same level and one increased, leaving the Overall Index Score in February 2018 at -10. In terms of changes to their personal finances during the last 12 months, the index increased one point this month to 0, yet is still one point lower than in February 2017. The measure for the General Economic Situation of the country during the last 12 months is now eight points lower than February 2017.
The Major Purchase Index also decreased by one point this month to 0, which is five points lower than last year.

AiFi Releases Data-based Supermarket System

Amazon has recently made headlines with their cashless concept store Amazon Go. Now a new player is entering the market, hoping to sell an alternative to Amazon Go.

According to the tech developers AiFi, the mew system is scalable and can be installed in small or large businesses without prior modifications. Based on cameras, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, AiFi promises to convert retail spaces into the shopping environment of the future. Using security cameras already existing in shops, the company guarantees that the system can be put into operation in a short time.

For retailers there is more to it than mere convenience, though. The system allows the retailers to gain insights into the shopping behaviour, with AiFi claiming their algorithms to be more accurate at real-time tracking customers than their main competitor’s. Commercial users also receive access to real time statistics on stock levels and such like. Shopping via the AiFi app, users pay and are charged for goods bought.

According to Steve Gu, CEO, AiFi, a pilot programme for the new technology is to be launched at the end of the year in conjunction with a major retailer.