Software giant Alibaba is not missing out on any opportunities, particularly when it comes to some savvy collaborations. The company has developed an idea to combine two of the most buzzing innovations making waves today - virtual reality and e-payments. E-commerce has well disrupted the conventional retail market, to the extent where seemingly little can persuade consumers to do traditional shopping again. But, having mostly been seen for its entertainment capabilities, it’s come as something of a surprise that VR is to enter e-commerce so soon.
Alibaba's arm Ant Financial, along with one of its incubators F Lab, has introduced VR Pay, a new payment system where, by using a VR headset, customers will be able to complete payments just by nodding their heads. The new solution is linked with Alipay, currently, the largest online payment system operating in China.
As for VR, the territory is still uncharted with regard to its commercial potential, but retail industry has some ideas. VR headsets are going through the same phases as all disruptive devices that have ever entered the market. The seemingly limitless opportunities that smart wearables offer are in danger of over-promising and under-delivering - therefore, companies that cross-breed them with other solutions have to be careful.
However, this doesn't mean that those opportunities shouldn't be explored and experimented with. VR is capable of further revolutionizing the customer experience. Visiting and click-through rates can be massively improved as, whilst browsing the virtual store, the distraction element will be taken to a minimum and online shopping can be a full, engaging experience. Moreover, VR may be capable of ending the chaos in the fitting rooms and its queues by offering customers the ability to try on items virtually. As for payments, if shopping can fully be taken into the virtual world, then it would make no sense if, in the end of the shopping journey, customers would need to take their goggles off to take out their wallet or smartphone. Thus, the new VR Pay can become that missing puzzle piece to complete the picture of the new shopping experience.
The F Lab has not specified whether the innovative payment solution is going to be linked with a particular VR brand, so it's expected that the company is aiming for wide recognition and a big market share. VR Pay was first demonstrated at the Shenzhen Innovation Week, tested on VR headsets powered by smartphones. It seems like prior to presentation, Alibaba has familiarized itself with what's going on in the VR market, as the timing for VR Pay is just right. Google’s Daydream VR and Sony’s PlayStation VR are about to kick off on the market, so the new e-commerce feature is likely to get a desirable response from its audience.
Security wise, Alibaba is already practicing advanced security methods like identity verification through 'log in with a selfie' and voice recognition. With VR Pay, users would need to log-in to their Alipay accounts, followed by password routine and their identity will be checked by voice print technology which recognizes each customer's voice.