If one CEO's outlook holds up, offline retailers may have a very limited future.
The consumer will deal directly with a manufacturer, potentially leaving out retailers, predicts Chen Xiaodong, CEO of Intime, an e-commerce platform run by Alibaba.
"Before, the controlling rights belonged to the retailer, but in the future it will shift to the manufacturer," Chen told CNBC's Arjun Kharpal. "The consumer will still be there, the manufacturer will still be there, but we need to consider who will be between these parties?"
A department store or a shopping mall will become a warehouse in the future, Chen said.
Chen was speaking at CNBC's East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China, where overseas and Chinese tech leaders have gathered to discuss the future of artificial intelligence, financial technology, cybersecurity, blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies.
Chen also sees a shift in power dynamics within a company's staff, where the importance of a CEO will give way to the staff that comes face-to-face with a customer.
"I think I will have another job as chief entertainment officer," he said.
Alibaba owns a majority stake in Intime, which operates 62 stores and shopping malls across 33 cities in China. The company focuses on a mix of the online and offline experience for shoppers. Intime was the first department store chain to use Alipay in China.
Chen also predicts a change is bargaining power between sellers and buyers. "The (controlling) right will shift from the seller to the buyer, and will change the relationship between retailers and manufacturers," he said.
Shoppers who use InTime's app order their products online and receive them within hours from the closest store in the vicinity.