Tech Spotlight: Shopping App New Arrival Brings Brick-and-Mortar Boutiques to China's Mobile Shoppers

    Chinese shoppers focused on niche brands now have another tool for finding independent boutiques both abroad and at home.
    Screenshots of the swipe feature (left and middle) and the city shopping guide (right) for the New Arrival app.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    There are fashion apps that are bringing overseas independent designers to the hands of shoppers based in China, and then there is “New Arrival.” It's the app that has the potential to lure Chinese shoppers abroad off the beaten track into lesser-known boutiques. The e-commerce app, which launched its latest version for the iPhone last month, serves as a platform and guide for those brick-and-mortar stores Chinese shoppers might otherwise miss in their travels.

    To achieve this, founder Howell Hu separated the app into two parts. One part focuses on “new arrivals” from brick-and-mortar stores, and allows users to browse products with a popular Tinder-inspired swiping feature. Shoppers only need to swipe right to like a product and see more like it, swipe left to “pass” on the product, and swipe down to add it to their shopping cart. From there, they can either get more information about the store it's in or simply arrange to make the purchase directly on the app using Alipay. Users can also browse using a navigation system that lets them shop by category if they prefer not to use the swiping feature.

    But to get the real brick-and-mortar experience, users can tour shops by city. The app includes a “nearby” function so that travelers can find stores on-the-go, or they can simply search by city alphabetically. Each store within a city features a biography and an address, which pulls it open in a separate map or allows the user to connect to their preferred map service for directions. Users can browse by most popular cities, which include Beijing, Shanghai, New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. Some stores feature products that can be purchased using the app, while others have yet to feature any products, only photos of the shop. Most of the cities themselves also feature a short blog post that users are able to share on social media.

    Currently, there are 200 stores that collaborate with the app, and all are either multi-brand stores or individual designers, meaning New Arrival is tapping more into those hard-to-find shopping outlets as opposed to large scale department stores or shopping malls. Most of the countries included are major tourist destinations in the United States, Europe, and Canada, but China is also represented, as well as several destinations in Asia (such as Johor Bahru in Malaysia).

    New Arrival promises on their site that they “cooperate with high quality goods only,” but they allow returns within one week just in case. The stores themselves handle all of the shipping, but New Arrivals takes a commission for sales and for data analysis for the brands.

    According to Technode, Hu is promising an Android version of New Arrival next month. It's too soon to tell how many more small-scale retailers outside of China will be investing in this app in the same way big-name brands have been trying to reach potential customers through social media channels like WeChat and Weibo. But if China's growing obsession with independent labels is anything to go by, it just may quickly catch on.

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