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Alibaba lures Chinese shoppers into VR with virtual celebrity dates

The Chinese e-commerce giant promoted its new virtual reality video player this weekend for May 20, a Valentines Day-esque celebration of romance in the People's Republic.

PRNewsFoto/P&G China

In Chinese Internet and text slang, "520" means "I love you". Naturally, there's a lot of romantic gift-giving going on come May 20. This weekend Taobao, an Alibaba-owned online marketplace similar to Amazon, encouraged people to shop via VR headset by offering interactions with a virtual boyfriend or girlfriend.

To enter this brave new world of digital love, Chinese buyers needed the Taobao app and a VR headset such as Samsung's Gear VR. They simply needed to scan this QR code and then they'd be whisked off to choose their cyber soul-mate.

Customers were offered two choices: "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", the former played by popular Chinese actor Yang Yang, the latter by actress Dilraba. They would interact with buyers in various prerecorded point-of-view videos, wherein they would wake the user up and even make them breakfast.

This was a move by Alibaba to get more people on board with its new VR video player, developed by subsidiary GnomeMagic. The Chinese giant isn't the only e-commerce company hoping to get buyers in the VR realm, with eBay recently partnering with Australian department store Myer to sell 12,500 products through a VR store.

Alibaba has found great success when it comes to Chinese holidays. On Single's Day in November, when single people all over China engage in retail therapy to salve their loneliness, it managed to pull in $1 billion in sales in just 8 minutes.