Alibaba invests in virtual showroom technology innovator Ordre

Alibaba Group has bought a minority stake in Ordre, a European online luxury wholesale platform.

Ordre, launched in 2015, allows fashion designers to show off their collections via 360-degree photography and virtual reality to interested wholesale buyers. The technologies make it more convenient for buyers, who aren’t always able to travel due to time and distance constraints, to build inventory each season. The reduced travel translates into lower carbon emissions at a time when sustainability is increasingly important to the industry, said Ordre.

Dianne Von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood and Jason Wu are among the world’s leading designers who have established digital showrooms on Ordre. They also work with fashion brands such as Joseph.

For Alibaba, the investment is a further push into the luxury sector, which is among its top strategic priorities, given the rising spending power and increasingly sophisticated tastes of Chinese consumers. The Hangzhou, China-based company plans to leverage Ordre’s technologies for consumers, however, delivering a more-enhanced shopping experience on platforms such as B2C marketplace Tmall.

“Matching Ordre’s technology with Alibaba’s unique data insights and capabilities – of which our recently launched Luxury Pavillion is a great illustration—we can provide our consumers with a personalised and differentiated experience, helping brands develop a deeper engagement with them,” said Jessica Liu, president of Tmall Fashion and Luxury.

The Luxury Pavillion, which lives within Tmall, was launched last August to deliver to China’s high-end consumers the same kind of brand exclusivity and tailored shopping experience online that they would expect at a brick-and-mortar store. About 50 brands, including l, offer products ranging from apparel and cosmetics to watches and luxury cars.

The pavillion is driven by Alibaba’s New Retail technologies, which blend online and offline commerce to deliver a better buying experience for consumers. Simon Lock, founder and CEO of Ordre, said the company’s digital assets, including 360-degree images, 360 video and VR fashion shows and designer interviews, are in line with this strategy and could serve Tmall shoppers and brands.

“Our 360-view allows consumers to understand every aspect and every view of a garment,” he said. “When you’re purchasing online, as much detail as can be provided is going to make your purchasing decision much more confident,” which can help drive down the product return rates.

The companies are currently discussing a number of potential initiatives that would expand on these technologies. One of which would create new direct-to-consumer channels for Ordre’s partner brands by leveraging content to communicate their brand story and provide more information about products. For example, Ordre’s VR technology was able to recreate Stella McCartney’s Coachella-inspired 2018 fall show and the theatrical experience of Thom Browne’s latest showcase in Paris, so that buyers could watch fashion shows from the front row.

Other potential collaborations include “fit avatars,” which allow buyers to see collections on models in 360-view and technology that allows buyers to remotely feel fabrics on a touch pad.

Lock said he was also interested in Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” technology, as well as the company’s artificial intelligence and cloud-computing capabilities.

“We can work together to create the ultimate global fashion cloud,” he said.

* Christine Chou writes for Alizila, the independent (but Alibaba funded) news service about Alibaba group activities. 

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