Virtual reality on track to China commercial development

By Yanie Durocher

I was first introduced to the virtual reality (VR) experience through the Democratic Front Row project last year in Denmark, where Swedish fashion designer Ida Klamborn created a live 360-degree VR fashion show that was

broadcast directly from the users mobile via Google Cardboard. Who would have thought that merging fashion with tech could have become a real movement and trend?

“The potential of what VR can do in the future is really amazing, large companies are investing billions in terms of R&D for this new tech where were forecasting that it can really lead to a revolution on how we behave, eventually even living more than half of our time in a virtual environment. We are already on this trend, whether we realize it or not. Also, storytelling is a major part of how we dream and why consume, where VR has the potential to bring this on an even higher level of imagination, entertainment and interaction” Eloi Gerard, founder and CEO of Shanghai-based VR firm Crows Nest, once said.

Today, this trend has expanded exponentially to the mass market and China specifically, where Alibaba (having a market share of more than 80 percent for B2B and B2C e-commerce transactions) has invested heavily into VR tech and recently introduced their own Buy+ technology.

Using sensors to generate a 3D interactive environment, Alibaba hopes to make VR a part of shopping for its 400 million-plus customers. They are also affiliating themselves with Chinese live streaming giants where they may start this project through pure and raw advertisement first according to a source.

Moreover, global brands in China from Dior to Levis and the like have also begun to flirt with the concept of both augmented and virtual reality, however we can see that it is still at its initial stage of development yet. Thus, I forecast three ways that VR can be commercially developed here in China in the near future.

First, by online to offline travel. VR will allow consumers to travel all over the world, explore and shop in virtual flagship stores, creating a rich user experience, convenience and management expectations.

Second, via clothing and home decor. Virtual fitting rooms and virtual home decor planning will increase purchasing efficiency by saving time and reducing returns.

This can even go further in the future through television linkage, product seeding and even digital mass customization through the usage of VR.

Thirdly, at fashion shows and showrooms. Not only can brands create immediate sell-through with seasonal items through the buy-now-wear-now model, but they can also start extending front-row viewership, making it democratic and creating a trickle down effect.

Consumers will also be able to give their immediate feedback on the collections, where a new challenge will be to balance ultra commercial pieces with fashion editorial key items.

VR is becoming an important and beneficial tool that will in the future create a deeper interactive experience between retailers and customers.

As Gerard said, “we are not at the stage of creating sophisticate 4D yet (includes hearing, touching, smelling, feeling), there are still a lot of technical issues to fix before this is launched on a mass commercial level, however when it does get launched effectively it will revamp many industries to a whole new level, literally.”

While some industry professionals in Shanghai believe VR is only a gimmick and fad, many others believe it can seriously lead to a total revamp on how we consume, shop and interact online, where a heavy blur between virtual and reality will occur.

I think it’s about seeing how it all plays out technologically speaking and how big brands and media will be “ready” to endorse this tech and make it public to the mass.

The author is a fashion and lifestyle blogger for The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


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