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Real Stores with Virtual Products – Alibaba Introduces “New Retail” Concept

Alibaba is one of the biggest retail companies in the world. It has a capitalization of more than $500 billion, almost matching that of Amazon. Since 2014, it has spent more than $10 billion in acquiring brick-and-mortar retail companies with a view to change the way sales is done in stores.

Acquisitions and New Retail

It invested in Intime Retail Group for $692 million in 2014, followed a year later with a $4.6 billion outlay on 2-0% of Sunning which has 1,600 outlets. It next bought into Sun Art Retail, for $2.9 billion equivalent to a 36% stake. Based in Hong Kong, it is the largest supermarket chain in China with 446 stores in 224 cities.

Amazon has also been acquiring companies during the same period, however, they have been converting these companies into online entities. Alibaba, on the other hand, is trying to inject new technology into the stores. This is in stark contrast to what Amazon and the rest of the west is doing. Amazon has been pushing for more online sales, whereas Alibaba has found innovative ways to increase sales of their brick-and-mortar stores.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma calls this concept “New Retail”, which is the fusion of both offline retail and ecommerce. One of the ideas being implemented under New Retail is that of home delivery or store pick up of items bought online. Home delivery is the cornerstone of online marketing, which Alibaba aims to streamline with improved use of customer data.

The integration of physical retail and ecommerce is also aimed at creating an improved customer shopping experience as well as boost business for their partners. One ecommerce platform that they are focusing on is supply chain management.

New Online and Offline Customer Experience

Alibaba gives clients a whole new online and offline shopping experience
Alibaba gives clients a whole new online and offline shopping experience

Alibaba’s offline store, Tmall, recently opened its first megastore in Beijing. The partnership with Intersport, which is one of the largest sports retailers in the world. The strategy would make use of data and AI support to sustain growth of sales in real stores. The store is banking on new shopping experiences which will connect online and offline stores and buyer activities.

The synergy of online and offline activities include attracting customers to their online stores, and then directing them to the stores. The strategy also includes e-commerce integrations of platform and logistics for faster delivery and in-store pickup. Alibaba is working heavily on developing algorithms to look at brand loyalty, purchasing history and both online and offline store tracking. Alibaba aims to use the data to better understand the shopper preferences. With the customer information, it is possible for the company adjust to buying trends as they happen, as well as design new marketing campaigns built on fast response supply chains.

In-store AI-Assisted Shopping

The newly opened stores feature innovations which help to generate more sales. One of their showcases is Hema Xiansheng, the Alibaba supermarket. Launched in 2015, it currently has a presence in 13 cities with 46 stores. It plans to add 2,000 more branches in the next five years. The Hema store one-ups Amazon as it offers customers the option to shop in-store or via its app. The app allows buyers to see information about the product. They can have the product delivered for free or be ready for pickup in 30 minutes. It also allows for payment via facial recognition.

At an Alibaba Intersport store customers can choose any item. They can also pull up an app to read additional information about it. For first time buyers of non-Chinese brands this can be very helpful. There is also an in-store AI assistant which can help in choosing which brand or model to buy. It also has a feature which uses VR to show how the person would look like when wearing a certain merchandise. This is particularly important to women shoppers since they can try out different dresses virtually.

Crowd-powered HyperloopTT: Innovating Transportation and Shaping Company Structure

Ever since Elon Musk publicly released his white paper about a transport system he coined Hyperloop, millions of dollars have been invested to bring Musk’s futuristic dream into reality. One of the bold companies that invested to make this vacuum tube a working mode of transportation for passengers is the innovative company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT, HyperloopTT).

Founded by Dirk Ahlborn, HTT’s main objective is to carry around 28-40 passengers per capsule, totaling more than 160,000 people every day. HTT also aims to transport 4,000 cargo shipments daily. The transport company wants to eliminate the issues of daily commute while running in an emission-free and noise-free system.

Crowd Storming is the Way

Crowdstorming is HyperloopTT’s method of planning and achieving their innovation. It is the ability to obtain fresh ideas from several sources, mostly external, managing brainstorming via the Internet. HTT uses crowd storming to push ideas, raise money, build networks, and even hire contributors to work on the project. It is not surprising that Hyperloop and crowd storming go hand in hand in the company. Dirk Ahlborn is also the founder and CEO of Jumpstart Inc., which operates the California-based JumpStartFund. It is a crowd collaboration online platform that helps startups from conception to funding.

‟Often, companies develop projects behind closed doors, without consulting those who are going to be their future users. We want to build the Hyperloop in a different way, using the power of the community,” Ahlborn pointed out.

Through crowd storming, all project owners can easily submit their bold ideas to the community. Members can also contribute their comments, provide their services, and invest on the projects. In 2013, hyperloop was first featured on the JumpStartFund site and then eventually emerged as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Dirk Ahlborn’s Bold Vision and Statement

In Bold Business’ exclusive interview with Dirk Ahlborn at the Synapse Summit, the founder of HTT explained further the importance for crowd storming to power the company. “We built a platform that brings people together that have the same passion. So if you have 10… 100,000 people that are passionate about the same thing you are, that give you their honest opinions, give you the ideas, their connections and the knowledge, you can build a better company,” said Ahlborn.

Since its founding in 2013, HyperloopTT has raised more than $100 million in investments in-cash and in-kind. Many people incorporated the company and built a small team together to start a startup. HTT has also crowdsourced its workforce from a multidisciplinary team of experts working across six continents.

“We are more than 800 people all around the world, 40 companies and some of the largest companies in the fields doing the same thing, investing in kind, bringing their knowledge, their IP, and a community of over 300,000 people that we crowd storm from,” Ahlborn added.

HTT boasts of its impressive list of collaborators. It includes design and engineering firm, manufacturers, marketing firms, IT and communications, and AR/VR companies. For stock options, collaborators just have to work 10 hours a week.

Transforming the World Altogether

In addition to driving the world into the future of transportation, HTT also leads the way in shaping the cutting-edge vision of how companies should be built together. The unique venture is a good blueprint of future companies in opening opportunities to people all around the world. It is about creating inventions and developments by using the right skillsets of contributors — the future users of such innovations.

In conclusion, HTT has gained remarkable momentum through its crowdsourcing initiatives. It is now on its way to creating the first full scale hyperloop. “We had to do more than just build a company. We had to build a movement. And that’s exactly what it is today. It’s a movement,” the founder told Bold Business.

World Health Organization to Fight Trans Fat Worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced its global plan to eliminate artificial trans fats in food. WHO calls governments and food manufacturers to lessen industrial trans fats in the next five years. The plan is composed of a step-by-step process to be completed by year 2023, which aims to save more lives and improve health in every nation. WHO stated that trans fats found in baked goods and  fried items contribute to the death of over 500,000 people with cardiovascular disease per year. Michael Bloomberg, Global Ambassador of WHO for Noncommunicable Diseases, approved the ban with the goal to lessen heart attack cases.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, appeals to public institutions to use the REPLACE action program to eradicate trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, from industrially produced food.

Also, Dr. Ghebreyesus emphasized, “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease.”

The REPLACE Program

Under the REPLACE initiative, WHO offers six strategic action plans to guarantee the immediate, comprehensive, and continued elimination of trans fatty acids from the food supply. Based on WHO’s released statement on their website, REPLACE specifically means:

Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.

Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.”

Together with other organizations and institutions, the International Food and Beverage Alliance supports the plan, which serves as the major representative of Kellog’s General Mills, McDonald’s, and Mars.

Making Every Effort Count

WHO does not have the full authority to enact a worldwide ban. Nevertheless, it has the influence to create a way for restricting manufactured fatty acids. The WHO suggested that consumers can use healthier oils and fats without affecting the cost or taste of the food. Moreover, regulatory actions and legislation would also aid to this plan, supported by education campaign and enforcement measures.

Many high-income nations have effectively eliminated manufactured trans fats by legal restrictions on trans fat content in processed food. Similarly, several governments have also approved nationwide prohibitions on partially hydrogenated oils, the leading source of artery-clogging trans fatty acids.

Notably, Denmark is the first nation to implement restrictions on trans fats wherein fatty acids in produced food exponentially decreased. Additionally, deaths related to cardiovascular diseases also declined relatively faster compared to those in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.

Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, stated in an interview:

New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead. Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.

For the most part, restriction on the consumption of trans fats is weak in low- to middle-income nations. Hence, governments need urgent action to make sure that the public feel the bold impacts of the REPLACE initiative.

Air Transportation Framework Paves Way for Flying Cars

The future is almost here, and it will be pioneered by flying cars. Soon, these futuristic automobiles may no longer be a thing of science fiction. And it’s only a matter of time before we can hover across the city inside our flying dream car. Recent technological advances have lead to the sudden shift in the transportation industry. Companies can now possibly build any design with advances such as enhanced batteries, better motors, and lightweight components. The electric motors’ flexibility provides engineers and developers with almost total free control, producing many bold advantages.

Uber & NASA Together

Two of the big-time entities recently collaborated to make these flying cars soar in the not-so-distant future, Uber Technologies Inc. and NASA. Uber provides NASA the data for flight simulation of a small passenger plane within the flight zone of the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. NASA’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) project aims to build a safe and efficient aerial transportation system wherein anything can be transported. These range from small items carried by drones to air taxis that function across small areas to the largest cities.

NASA officials also confirmed that their research will determine safety measures future air transportation systems might have. This is after Uber had signed an agreement with NASA to develop an air-traffic-control system designed for a flying car service named UberAir, also known as Uber Elevate. This is NASA’s second space act agreement with Uber, but the first ever agreement to specifically focus on modeling and simulating UAM procedures. Under the research contract, Uber will share its project and plans to develop a modern air rideshare system with NASA. Using these data, the space agency will then develop structures on how an aircraft move and takeoff.

Uber with RDECOM

Taking this bold venture into a higher level, Uber also partnered with the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) of the US Army. This partnership focuses on research and studies about the necessary technology to propel Uber’s electrical vertical take-off flying car.

With this technology, UberAir aims to launch its cars up to 2,000 ft. at speeds of 150 mph intended for short-distance flights and can go as far as 60 miles per battery charge. By 2020, the air transport service targets to demonstrate its four-passenger seat aircraft in the Dallas Area and Los Angeles, and will be available for commercial use in 2023. Initial prototypes of the air taxi will have pilots, but autonomous driving option will be later released.

A Race to Fly Cars

Uber is not alone in searching for ways to develop this aerial transportation technology. Globally, big companies have announced their plans to launch their own version of flying cars, including the electric Volocopter from German developers; Lilium that recently secured a $90 million series B funding; Vahana from Airbus; Ehang 184 and Terrafugia from Chinese developers; Kitty Hawk Cora funded by Alphabet CEO Larry Page; and the Workhorse Surefly.

Some people are skeptical to the idea of flying cars. Factors like safety, costs, speed, and efficiency always hinder the possibility of making this transport technology a reality. But with the latest computer systems, lightweight materials, voice-recognition tech, and years of engineering expertise, the dream of flying cars is achievable. Airplanes, helicopters, jetpacks, spaceships, and a lot of flying things have been set off the ground. With the same technology, flying cars will be able to elevate, too.

Researchers and developers have still so much to do to make flying cars become the common mode of transportation. Thanks to the rapid growth of drones, the technology of flying cars has come a long way. But this technology is just a part of a complex system. Flying cars in prioritized areas is a possibility, just like how autonomous driving cars started appearing in big cities. We can watch the progress on this technology and prepare for the bold impact these flying cars may take us.