Alibaba Drives Sales by Arranging VR Dates with Celebrities

Alibaba Drives Sales by Arranging VR Dates with Celebrities

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    Are you feeling lonely? Does it seem like everyone around you is finding love while you sit on the couch binge-watching Netflix? You’re not alone, and there may even be a new, innovative solution: Perhaps the best place to turn is to online shopping.

    Chinese Create Cyber Boyfriends & Girlfriends

    There are a lot of ways to find love these days, thanks to modern technology, but this one might just take the cake—creating a cyber boyfriend or girlfriend using virtual reality technology. In Chinese Internet slang, 520 is a quick way to say “I love you”. The technology colloquialism has turned May 20 (or 5/20) into a day full of love that has almost become a second Valentine’s Day in the country. To celebrate the season and promote its new technology, Chinese powerhouse Alibaba leveraged its online marketplace Taobao (similar to Amazon) to create virtual mates as an incentive for users to shop. After all, if real couples walk the mall together, shouldn’t virtual couples shop online together?

    VR Technology Makes Romance Dreams a Reality

    Taking advantage of the VR matchmaking required the Taobao app and a virtual reality headset. Once users had everything in place, they simply had to scan a QR code. From there, they could choose to mingle with a girlfriend or boyfriend, who they would then interact with on pre-recorded videos with different dating situations. From waking the user up to making them breakfast and laughing at their jokes, the video vignettes are believable both in quality and subject matter. And because they are shot from the point of view of the person wearing the VR headset, it really feels like the user is in the situation. Users said they were impressed by the technology and felt transported into a new relationship world.

    To make the game even sweeter, the “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” characters were played by popular Chinese actors Yang Yang and Dilbraba. After all, if dating a celebrity seems unattainable, the next best thing is to use virtual reality to make it as real as possible.

    Leveraging VR into Sales

    The idea behind the entire plot was to showcase Alibaba’s virtual reality technology, including a VR video player. As users interacted with their virtual boyfriends or girlfriends and were able to see the realistic imagery and ease of use of Alibaba’s VR headset, the gamble is that they would realize they need the gadget in their life. Alibaba has a great track record of partnering marketing campaigns and activities with Chinese Internet holidays—it raked in $1 billion in just eight minutes when it targeted lonely people in need of a little retail therapy on Single’s Day in November. If that holds true with the most recent celebration, then perhaps Alibaba is on to something with this romantic VR ploy.

    The Future of VR

    As virtual reality technology becomes more mainstream and has more applications, competition is sure to heat up. With companies vying for customers’ attention, we could see this campaign as just one of the first ploys to sell virtual reality.

    Would you use VR for a virtual partner? What do you think is next for virtual reality?

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