El Corte Inglés in Barcelona

PARIS — El Corte Inglés has forged a wide-ranging agreement with Alibaba Group to work with the technology giant to structure its retail business for a digital era. The move comes as traditional retailers struggle to adapt to sweeping changes in retail, with a number of actors looking to technology giants for help.

The planned partnership encompasses cloud computing, smart payments and artificial intelligence, as well as space for selling the Spanish department store chain’s goods to Alibaba users in China.

“This agreement will allow us to combine both the physical and online worlds,” Victor del Pozo, chief executive officer of El Corte Inglés, said in a joint statement.

“We are looking forward to joining forces with them to provide consumers in China and worldwide with the greatest products and experience,” said Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, managing director of Alibaba’s operations in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. The executive also runs Tmall in Europe.

The letter of intent signed by the two companies includes a pledge to explore ties in infrastructure as well.

Areas of potential cooperation include access for El Corte Inglés to Alibaba’s cloud computing technology, which includes data analysis and artificial intelligence for customer relationships services. The Spanish retailer may also use Alibaba platforms including Tmall and AliExpress to sell products to consumers in China and elsewhere in the world.

AliExpress, meanwhile, is considering physical set-ups in El Corte Inglés stores to promote products on its platform, following a recent pop-up installation at a store in Madrid for Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping bonanza.

In terms of logistics, Alibaba may tap into the Spanish retailer’s local distribution centers as collection points for purchases made online through AliExpress.

El Corte Inglés, which was established in 1940, earlier this year signed up for Alipay, Alibaba’s payment system, for use by Chinese tourists in Spain. The two companies said they might expand the agreement and develop new services for Chinese shoppers at the department store.

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