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From: Glenn Petersen7/2/2017 10:52:26 AM
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Alibaba’s reportedly preparing to launch an Amazon Echo clone for Chinese market

Reuters
June 30, 2017 12:52 AM



Above: The Alibaba Group office in San Francisco.
Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat
_______________________________________

(Reuters) — Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba would launch a product mimicking Amazon.com Inc’s “Echo” next week, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“Amazon Echo”, launched in 2014, is a speaker which one can leave on all day and give voice commands to, similar to Siri on an Apple Inc iPhone.

Alibaba’s new product would be made available only in China and speak only Mandarin, the source told Reuters.

Apple and Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, have unveiled products similar to Echo with the HomePod and Google Home.

The Information, a technology website, was the first to report the news on Thursday.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment, outside business hours.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

https://venturebeat.com/2017/06/30/alibabas-reportedly-preparing-to-launch-an-amazon-echo-clone-for-chinese-market/



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From: Glenn Petersen7/14/2017 3:19:30 PM
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Why You Should Look to China for the Future of Retail

Chinese companies have been weaving together the online and offline worlds, trying for an ever more seamless fit

By Li Yuan
The Wall Street Journal
Updated July 13, 2017 8:48 p.m. ET



Shoppers at a cashierless BingoBox convenience store in Shanghai last month. Venture capitalists consider such stores a hot retail experiment. Photo: Wang gang/Imaginechina/Associated Press
___________________________

The retail industry is in a state of flux. American retail stores are shutting at a record pace. Amazon.com is experimenting with new formats for brick-and-mortar stores and its $13.7 billion deal for Whole Foods Market is seen as a sign of accelerating change.

For a glimpse of the future, U.S. retailers and e-commerce companies should take a look at China, which is already a big test lab.

Chinese companies have been busy weaving together the online and offline worlds, trying for an ever more seamless fit. Convenience stores that have no sales assistants or cashiers are popping up in big cities. E-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding BABA +1.08% and its rival JD.com JD 0.80% have poured money into department stores and grocery chains.

Alibaba is launching fresh-produce grocery stores in the Whole Foods vein, with the first 13 open in three cities. There, customers can order, eat in, take out and arrange for groceries to be delivered to their homes—all done by phone. No cash or credit cards. Only Alibaba’s affiliated payment app, Alipay, is accepted.

Joe Tsai, Alibaba executive vice chairman, explained the virtues in a recent call with investors: “So now the store knows your preferences and can give you a personalized selection of products on your mobile app no matter where you are. It knows you and can predict your needs.”

To do this, companies are creating efficiencies by integrating payment systems and streamlining inventory and delivery. More important, investors say, it is the gathering of data on consumer habits that is crucial: It creates opportunities for retailers to cater to customer needs and leverage sales online and offline.

“China has about the most fertile soil for testing out new formats of retail,” says Zhang Ying, a partner at Sinovation Ventures, which has invested in the unmanned-convenience-store startup F5 Future Store.
_________________________________________

Chinese e-commerce giants’ offline acquisitions and presence

Alibaba


  • 28% stake in listed department-store chain Intime Retail Group Co. with plans to take it private
  • Nearly 20% stake in consumer-electronics chain Suning Commerce Group Co.
  • 35% stake in grocery chain Sanjiang Shopping Club Co.
  • 18% stake in Lianhua Supermarket Holdings Co.
  • Launched Hema Xiansheng, a fresh-produce grocery chain
  • JD.com
  • 10% stake in Chinese supermarket chain Yonghui Superstores Co. Ltd.
  • Opened a JD.com “experience center,” where customers can test products, in a Wal-Mart store in Shenzhen
  • Plans to open one million JD convenience stores and 5,000 baby and mom “experience stores”
  • _________________

    China is an ideal market for experimenting because its traditional banking and retail industries are weak. A generation ago, stores had little to offer and service to match—legacies of the planned economy. Credit cards, nonexistent back then, still aren’t common, while smartphones are everywhere.

    China’s e-commerce market is now bigger than those of the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, France and South Korea combined, according to consultancy McKinsey. Meanwhile, sales growth for China’s top 100 brick-and-mortar retailers fell to zero or contracted in the past three years, from double-digit growth only five years earlier, according to the official China National Commercial Information Center.

    Chinese also have rapidly taken to using their smartphones to make payments and to scanning QR codes, those waffle-patterned bar codes that can be affixed to goods or store shelves. Roughly 67% of China’s 731 million internet users used mobile-payment technology in 2016, according to government data, and half did so in physical stores.

    True, the e-commerce companies are going offline because they need to. As big as China’s e-commerce industry is, sales of online merchandise made up only 13% of the total last year. And the growth of online merchandise sales has slowed from 50% in 2014 to 33% in 2015 and 26% last year.

    Companies and investors say that the more data retailers collect on online and offline spending, the more accurate their customer profiles can be—and the more targeted their offerings. Two consumers who purchase the same toilet paper, for example, could have vastly different income levels—and thus greatly differ in what they spend on other products and services.

    For venture capitalists, the hottest retail experiment is the cashierless convenience store. In recent weeks, GGV Capital announced an investment in startup Bingobox and Sinovation did so in F5. Alibaba unveiled a cashierless convenience-store concept last weekend. Amazon’s version, Amazon Go, has been delayed by technical glitches; its high-tech system of cameras, sensors and algorithms to track customers got overwhelmed when more than 20 people were in the test store at one time.

    While the Chinese ones are in testing mode, too, they are still being rolled out, fixing bugs as they go. F5 is upgrading its cooking machine to reduce the time to prepare food. BingoBox had to shut a store in Shanghai this month because the indoor temperature was so high the doughnuts melted.

    The attraction for investors is scale. Convenience stores are the fastest-growing category of retail, driven by younger consumers more willing to pay for convenience than their cost-conscious elders. The consumer-profile data, says Sinovation’s Mr. Zhang, could be more valuable than the food and drink sales.

    At an F5 outlet in the southern city of Guangzhou recently, 24-year-old Carson Zhang ordered a bowl of hot noodles with balls of minced fish for 10 yuan ($1.47) by clicking an image on a screen. He paid by scanning his smartphone, waited for about one minute for the food to be delivered by a robotic arm to a pickup point and ate at a counter. “I came to the convenience store for convenience, not human interaction,” the pharmaceutical salesman said as he left to catch a movie.

    —Follow Li Yuan on Twitter @LiYuan6 or write to li.yuan@wsj.com.

    Write to Li Yuan at li.yuan@wsj.com

    Appeared in the July 14, 2017, print edition as 'In Retail, China Serves as a Test Lab.'

    wsj.com

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    From: hollyhunter7/16/2017 10:31:45 PM
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    On watch for clear above 152.25.

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    From: Glenn Petersen8/2/2017 2:56:24 PM
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    Wifi-equipped robots triple work efficiency at the warehouse of the world's largest online retailer

    dailymail.co.uk

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    From: JakeStraw8/15/2017 1:05:50 PM
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    Alibaba Group Holding Limited had its price target raised by analysts at Stifel Nicolaus from $165.00 to $180.00.

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    From: Julius Wong8/17/2017 8:20:51 AM
       of 542
     

    The favorite tech stock of hedge fund heavy hitters like David Tepper just hit a new all-time high

    cnbc.com

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    To: Paul Senior who wrote (504)8/17/2017 10:25:41 AM
    From: Paul Senior
       of 542
     
    I up my few shares a little on today's good news.

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    From: JakeStraw8/18/2017 11:49:59 AM
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    Alibaba Group Holding Limited had its price target raised by analysts at Royal Bank Of Canada from $160.00 to $185.00. They now have an "outperform" rating on the stock.

    Alibaba Group Holding Limited had its price target raised by analysts at J P Morgan Chase & Co to $205.00. They now have an "overweight" rating on the stock.

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    From: Julius Wong8/19/2017 9:19:35 PM
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    Alibaba short sellers battered after stock soars to record high

    marketwatch.com

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    From: Glenn Petersen9/4/2017 7:16:42 AM
       of 542
     
    Ant Financial, controlled by Jack Ma, is an affiliate of Alibaba. Its value has been estimated to be in the range of $70 to $100 billion.

    Alibaba is entitled to 37.5 percent of Ant Financial’s pretax earnings based on a deal the two struck in the run-up to Alibaba’s 2014 IPO. Ant Financial paid the e-commerce giant about 2.09 billion yuan in royalty and technology fees in fiscal 2017, up about 86 percent from the previous year, according to the Alibaba filing.

    Officially named Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., the company is one of Ma’s most closely watched assets, and tightly linked to Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce operator. Alibaba is entitled to about one-third of Ant Financial upon its market debut -- with regulatory approval -- a potential boost for Alibaba’s shareholders.

    An alternative option would be for Alibaba to receive a one-time payment equivalent to 37.5 percent of the value of Ant Financial as determined prior to its IPO, which could amount to $28 billion: CLSA analyst Elinor Leung estimated in September that Ant was worth $74.5 billion.

    bloomberg.com

    Alipay rolls out world’s first ‘Smile to Pay’ facial recognition system at KFC outlet in Hangzhou

    Amanda Lee
    SCMP
    PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 3:12pm
    UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 4:40pm


    Alipay today launched its facial recognition payment solution at KFC’s new KPRO restaurant in Hangzhou. SCMP Pictures (UNDATED HANDOUT)
    __________________________________

    Ant Financial, which operates the Alipay electronic payment platform used in Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall online shopping sites, has rolled out the world’s first commercial application of a payment system that identifies payers using facial-recognition technology.

    At KPRO, a new KFC restaurant that serves salads, paninis and fresh juice instead of deep-fried chicken in Alibaba’s home base of Hangzhou, customers can authenticate their payments by having their faces scanned.

    The “Smile to Pay” application takes just one to two seconds to recognise and identify a face, which follows the scan with a second verification through a mobile phone, according to Ant Financial. The technology is fully insured, and users of Alipay can disable or enable the feature any time.

    A video provided by Ant Financial, which bought a stake in the China-based KFC and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants business last year from Yum! Brands for US$460 million along with Primavera Capital, shows customers being accurately identified, even though they were in disguise using make-up or wearing wigs.

    “Combined with 3D cameras and likeness detection algorithm, ‘Smile to Pay’ can effectively block spoofing attempts using other people’s photos or video recordings,” said Chen Jidong, Ant Financial’s director of biometric identification technology.

    The roll out of Ant Financial’s “Smile to Pay” function, powered by the Face ++ technology developed by Beijing start-up Megvii, underscores how China, with the world’s largest population and a headlong embrace of mobile internet technology, is becoming the latest testing ground for new applications and services.

    China’s has been a front runner in both the developing and applying facial recognition technology for commercial use, a trend that’s been untouched by technology companies in the United States, due to tighter US laws governing the collection of biometric data. An airport in Nanyang city in Henan province has installed a check-in system that augments a boarding pass with a facial recognition system developed by Baidu, operator of China’s dominant internet search engine. Similar plans are afoot for the Beijing airport.

    Alipay already has more than half the share of China’s US$5.5 trillion market for mobile payments, while Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall are the biggest e-commerce and online shopping platforms on the market. Alibaba is also the owner of the South China Morning Post.

    Alibaba’s founder and chairman Jack Ma Yun demonstrated Ant Financial’s “Smile to Pay” function for German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the 2015 CEBIT exhibition in Hanover. Facial recognition is one of hottest technology trend in China.

    Ant Financial’s facial recognition technology was licensed from Megvii. Other companies like Didi Chuxing, the dominant Chinese ride-sharing company, uses Face++ to verify the identities of its 1.35 million drivers, while Meitu uses it to enhance its photo-retouching features.

    Megvii raised US$100 million from investors CCB International and Foxconn Technology during its last funding round in December, according to a report by Bloomberg.

    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
    Alipay launches world’s first smile-to-pay system

    scmp.com

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