E-commerce in China might have just entered into a new dimension with the introduction of virtual reality (VR) technology, which shifts the experience from 2D to 3D, and virtually transports consumers across the globe to browse their favourite stores.

Consumers get first taste of VR shopping

VR shopping was kicked off in China at the Double 11 festival last November with Alibaba’s Buy+ technology. For a very small price, buyers were able to obtain a cardboard VR headset, plug their phone into it and browse products in the VR space. Seven virtual stores were trialled at the event, including Costco and Macy’s from the US, and Chemist Warehouse from Australia.

According to sources, eight million people tried out Buy+ at the shopping fest. All buyers had to do to buy a product through Tmall was stare at it until it until it jumped off the shelf and hovered in the air. They could then pay for the item with a movement of their head, verified by iris recognition. There was no need to get out the credit card or fill in a payment form, or even click a button on their smartphone.

The technology is pretty cool but it’s not yet determined if it will take off in a big way. For many people, shopping is more than just ‘buying stuff’ – it is an experience in itself. VR may provide the kind of immersive experience that is often lacking with online shopping. Imagine for instance, being transported by boat and rail to a top department store in New York, Paris or London, and being able to browse and be served personally by a virtual assistant!  

Time will tell if it takes off. However, the fact that so many tried it out though might be a promising sign!

What VR could bring in the future

While the technology is in the early stages, if it proves popular and advances there could be all kinds of developments. For example, Ikea already has VR technology that allows you to design your own kitchen and walk around in it as if it is real. In the future, VR could also allow you to try on an item of clothing and look at your virtual self in a virtual mirror. You might also be able to virtually travel to other countries to help you decide where to go on your next holiday, or experience walking through a property before deciding whether or not to buy it.

The possibilities are endless when you think about it! If this interests you and you would like to know more about it or any other aspect of Chinese online retail, get in contact with our bilingual China marketing team.

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