Shop­ping in vir­tual re­al­ity

Have a look. Try it on. Buy it. All from the com­fort of your home com­puter. That’s the prom­ise of VR shop­ping, but the tech­nol­ogy has a way to go to be­come a ma­jor mar­ket force

China Daily (USA) - - WUZHEN - By MENGJING mengjing@chi­

With­out trav­el­ing abroad dur­ing ma­jor sales sea­sons, Chi­nese ne­ti­zens are able to get their hands on im­ported items on the cheap, thanks to the Nov 11 shop­ping fes­ti­val, the big­gest an­nual on­line sales event in China.

But rather than brows­ing and click­ing on­line, they were given the op­por­tu­nity to test a brand-new shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence en­abled by vir­tual re­al­ity or VR tech­nol­ogy, as e-com­merce play­ers geared up to stand out from the com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing the an­nual shop­ping ex­trav­a­ganza.

Tmall, an on­line mar­ket­place of Chi­nese e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd, launched an on­line chan­nel that en­abled shop­pers to try out the VR shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence be­tweenNov 1 andNov 11.

By wear­ing VR head­sets, con­sumers were able to shop at Macy’s, Tar­get, Chemist Ware­house and other vir­tual stores on Tmall. Cus­tomers were able to check out items as if they were in real shop­ping malls and com­plete the en­tire shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, from pe­rusal to pur­chase, within the VR en­vi­ron­ment sim­ply by con­trol­ling their gaze.

The tech-savvy shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence launched dur­ing

For now VR shop­ping tech­nol­ogy is not ma­ture. Shop­pers can some­times feel dizzy when using the head­sets to shop on­line.”

Qin Kai, this year’s Nov 11 shop­ping fes­ti­val is seen as Alibaba’s move to test the wa­ters in VR shop­ping, an emerg­ing trend that the e-com­merce gi­ant is bet­ting on to help drive up busi­ness growth in the fu­ture.

VR is still at a nascent stage in­China. Much of theVRrev­enue comes from the gam­ing and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries. But Hangzhou-based Alibaba an­nounced plans ear­lier this year to gear up the de­vel­op­ment of a fu­tur­is­tic VR shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence named Buy+.

In March, it set up GnomeMagic Lab to push its VR strat­egy for­ward. The lab de­vel­ops both VR and aug­mented re­al­ity or AR fea­tures to com­ple­ment its ex­ist­ing on­line re­tail busi­nesses.

To im­prove the VR shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group, known as Ali­pay, an af­fil­i­ate com­pany of the Alibaba Group, is also work­ing onVR­pay­ment tech­nol­ogy, so that shop­pers can en­joy a seam­less VR shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence that is likely to al­low them to com­plete pay­ment pro­ce­dures via iris recog­ni­tion rather than in the “old school” way — tak­ing off the VR head­sets to in­put pay­ment pass­words in smart­phones.

Alibaba is cer­tainly not alone in terms of lev­er­ag­ing VR tech­nol­ogy for on­line re­tail. Bei­jing-based Inc, China’s sec­ond-largest on­line re­tailer, is also bet­ting big on VR shop­ping. In Septem­ber, launched its VR strat­egy that aims to pro­vide an on­line shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence that can beat that of­fered by brick-and-mor­tar stores.

How­ever, there are doubts over whether VR shop­ping can be­come part of the main­stream in on­line re­tail as plenty of ob­sta­cles re­main.

Qin Kai, founder of BeanVR, a Shen­zhen-based start-up ded­i­cated to adopt­ing VR tech­nol­ogy in so­cial net­work­ing, saidVRshop­ping is a trend but it may take an­other three years for it to click with shop­pers.

“For now VR shop­ping tech­nol­ogy is not ma­ture. Shop­pers can some­times feel dizzy when using the head­sets to shop on­line. And it takes plenty of ef­fort and money to build 3-D con­tent of ev­ery item sold on­line,” he said, adding there was only a lim­ited sup­ply of goods that could be cho­sen via the VR chan­nel dur­ing Alibaba’s Nov 11 shop­ping car­ni­val.

founder of BeanVR


Peo­ple wear­ing VR head­sets are in­vited to join a VR shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence on Nov 11 at Shen­zhen Dayun Arena. The event was launched by Tmall, an on­line mar­ket­place of Alibaba.


Cus­tomers try Alibaba’s new pay­ment sys­tem, VR Pay, in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

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