Alibaba takes a step further into the metaverse by launching a new shopping venue
The 618 shopping festival is only three weeks away. As one of the two major shopping festivals in China (the other one being Double 11), this year’s 618 faces many challenges.
The COVID pandemic has disrupted the supply chain, and affected people’s daily lives, leaving merchants, consumers, and e-commerce platforms trapped in a variety of uncertainties. Customers are reluctant to make online purchases, not only because their willingness to consume has gone down, but also because they prefer visiting physical stores as the pandemic has slowed down shipping.
E-commerce platforms in China need to be innovative in order to stimulate consumption. Taobao has set up a metaverse unit and plans to launch metaverse shopping function in the upcoming 618 shopping fest, according to Tech Planet.
Screenshot of the yet to be released Taobao 618 metaverse
Users will not need to wear external devices to realize the virtual shopping function. As a screenshot has shown, users will be able to navigate the Taobao metaverse with their phones, guiding their virtual avatars to roam, shop and interact in the 3D world.
The screenshot is still from a beta version, people familiar with the project told Tech Planet, ”It looks like an old version from a few months ago. This product is still being optimized, but the goal and endpoint, for sure, is to ensure the user’s smooth virtual shopping ability.”
Like many other tech companies in China, Alibaba has been making effort to foray into the metaverse. Alibaba launched a “Buy+” project as early as 2016. Buy+ utilizes computer graphics system and auxiliary sensors to generate an interactive 3D shopping environment, enabling users to interact directly with people and merchandise in the virtual world. Buy+ was implemented in various pharmacies and shopping centers in the U.S. and Japan, including Macy’s, COSTCO, Target, Supature, and Tokyo Otaku Mode.
Alibaba’s Buy+ project, launched in 2016, when VR was a big hype.
In 2021, the company seized the metaverse hype and established an XR lab in Alibaba’s DAMO Academy. The lab has subsequently collaborated with Yusong Art Museum in Beijing to offer AR exhibitions.
For last year’s Double 11 shopping festival, Taobao has launched a “metaverse art gallery” campaign, curated by popular virtual human Ayayi. Not only did virtual humans model for promoted items, but they also “created” NFTs to be sold alongside physical merchandise. E-commerce remains Alibaba’s core business, thus the company will likely build its metaverse around venues such as Taobao and T-Mall to reach the maximum amount of users.