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VR and AR help boost Alibaba Singles’ Day sales

With a little help from virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality(AR) gamification, Alibaba sold over US$7 billion worth of goods during the first two hours of Singles Day.


The dust has now settled and the numbers are in. Alibaba achieved a 32% growth in gross merchandise volume to record breaking sales of CN ¥120 billion (US$17.7 billion), buoyed by pervasive and star-studded promotions as well as cutting-edge VR, AR gamification.

Buy+ VR experience
This year, Macy’s took part in its first Singles Day by working with Alibaba on its Buy+ VR experience. In late October, Alibaba started selling 150,000 cardboard VR headsets, similar to Google Cardboard, for 1 yuan (about US$0.15) on Taobao to slot in their smartphones and explore virtual replicas of stores such as Macy's and Costco.

From Nov. 1-11, customers could use them with Taobao’s app to "walk" around the shop, "pick up" items to examine them virtually, and make instant purchases by staring at floating buttons. On Singles’ Day itself, the discounts that help make the shopping bonanza so popular were also available in the virtual-reality shopping trip.

Pre-emptive VR strike
The potential to provide more immersive online shopping experiences makes VR shopping a space to watch, and Alibaba is the first to do it in a big way.

"If brands could do it themselves, it would encroach on Alibaba's eco-system. This way the company is pre-empting that and building their own VR mall to keep these brands in their eco-system," says Jack Chuang of OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Augmented reality and gamification
Alibaba has previously held online contests and giveaways of vouchers known as "red packets" in the lead-up to 11 November. This year, however, it also created a “Pokemon Go” style augmented reality game to help capture customers and drive further drive sales activity by requiring they make repeat purchases to win rewards.

For example, using a game within the Tmall app, shoppers catch Tmall's cat mascot at participating shops and restaurants to unlock and win "red packets".

Tags: Alibaba, Virtual Reality, Technology, Augmented Reality

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