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Tencent uses facial recognition in fashion shops in push for smart retail

A sign of Tencent is seen during the third annual World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China, on November 16, 2016. Photo: Reuters 

China's technology giant Tencent has partnered with a fashion company to launch clothing stores powered by facial recognition technology, a move to drive its "intelligent retail" strategy.

Recently, Tencent, the developer of China's popular mobile payment service WeChat Pay, and Denmark's Bestseller Fashion Group debuted their first two smart fashion shops in the country, where customers can enjoy tailored dress collocation services by simply scanning their faces in front of a computer screen.

Bestseller provides clothing and accessories for women, men, teenagers and children under a variety of brands including Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, Selected and Only, and operates more than 8,000 stores in some 500 Chinese cities.

The two fashion shops are a Jack & Jones store in Shenzhen and a Vero Moda store in Guangzhou. In these two fashion stores, the potential buyers will be offered dress collocation options in the fitting rooms, which are equipped with the algorithm-based computers that are able to match faces with suitable clothes chosen from Bestseller's product library, after scanning their faces before the computer screens.

If the customers are satisfied with one dress collocation option, they can either call the shopping guide for a try-on or scan the quick response code of a "mini program" on the computer screen to complete the payment online.

"Mini programs" are sub-applications within the ecosystem of WeChat, the widely used social media platform in China. They provide the users with different advanced features such as e-commerce, task management and coupons.

In addition, by scanning their faces before the computer screens of the fitting rooms and connecting their Bestseller's membership cards with a "mini program" specially designed for the fashion company, the customers can join the Bestseller facial recognition club, a privilege that they can use to complete payments at the cashier desks only by scanning faces.

Tencent has been applying its cutting-edge technologies in the offline retail stores as a key part of its "intelligent retail" strategy, as archrival Alibaba Group is increasing its bet on the "new retail" strategy, which is aimed at seamlessly integrating online and offline shopping by means of advanced technologies.

Previously, Tencent Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pony Ma expressed strong confidence in what he called the "intelligence retail solutions", which he said would depend on mobile payment, facial recognition, artificial intelligence and algorithm to help offline shop owners work out full sets of customized services.

In December last year, Tencent announced plans to buy a 5 percent stake in Yonghui Superstores and acquire a 15 percent stake in the department store operator's supply chain and logistics subsidiary. The move was considered as Tencent's big push into the country's offline retail sector, especially after rival Alibaba took a $2.9 billion stake in top Chinese grocery chain Sun Art Retail Group in November 2017.

Alibaba is now extending its overwhelming grip over electronic commerce into physical stores. In the past couple of years, Alibaba has spent more than $10 billion for major stakes in big-box retailer Suning Commerce Group, Lianhua Supermarket and Intime Retail Group.

On last year's Single's Day, Alibaba made a new sales record by selling products valued at $25 billion on its online shopping platforms.


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