Innovation and Disruption in Asia: New Retail

This post is part of an ongoing series on Innovation and Disruption of technology and business in Asia. Visit the archives of previous posts here.


Retailers worldwide are facing challenges imposed by burgeoning e-commerce giants. But a new approach is emerging in Asia. The question of either-or is being pushed aside in favor of “New Retail”, a model that merges the best of e-commerce and in-store experience.

Alibaba Leads The Charge: Alibaba is leading the wave of New Retail experiments. In 2017 it launched HEMA, a chain of cashless supermarkets. Much like at Amazon Go, which opened in early 2018, shoppers use their mobile phones to pay for store items. But what HEMA offers is a true omni-channel consumer experience – you can buy groceries, eat on-site with instantly prepared fresh seafood, and even have your groceries and cooked food delivered to your home in 30 minutes, as every HEMA store doubles as a distribution center.1

In HEMA, consumers can buy and eat fresh seafood that is instantly prepared for you by chefs in the store
Photo Credit: Alibaba

Automated Test-Driving: In addition, even the most traditional offline retail experiences, like test-driving a car, are being revolutionized as part of the New Retail concept. Instead of visiting one dealer at a time and facing pressure from a salesman, Alibaba has rolled out a line of “Auto Vending Machines” that let customers browse the makes and models inside of an App. They choose the car they want to test drive, pick it up from an unmanned vending machine, and drive it for up to three days.1

Consumers order a test drive online and pick up the car from Alibaba’s Auto Vending Machine
Photo Credit: Alibaba

3-D printed teas: Even Starbucks opened a Premium Reserve Roastery in Shanghai last year, which is being billed as among the most advanced digital locations for the coffee giant anywhere in the world. Armed with immersive 3-D experiences for costumers via their cell-phones and a 3-D printed tea bar that allows patrons to explore new recipes and flavors, Starbucks shows it knows a thing or two about courting the digitally savvy Chinese customer.

American retailers can take inspiration from Asia’s “New Retail” and embrace the evolution of in-store digital technology to create seamless consumer experiences.

Written by Selina Guo

Planning Director, Admerasia


New Retail is not the only industry disrupted by Asian innovation. There are eight more! Download the link at to read the entire report.


Quartz, The future of retail is happening right now in China, 2018

2  Starbucks Newsroom, Starbucks Opens State-of-the-Art Premium Reserve Roastery in Shanghai