JD.com going into VR battle with Alibaba

Updated: 2016-09-07 07:30

By Ouyang Shijia and Meng Jing(China Daily)

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JD.com going into VR battle with Alibaba

A boy tries VR games at an urban science festival in Beijing. [Photo/China Daily]

China's second-largest B2C online platform JD.com Inc is gearing up to use virtual reality technology on its online shopping platform in a bid to catch up with its archrival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

On Tuesday, the Nasdaq-listed online retailer announced its ambitious plan to build a virtual reality and augmented reality-enabled online shopping experience that can beat those offered by brick-and-mortar stores.

"We don't want to miss the future development of VR and AR technologies. They could provide better shopping experiences and bring convenience to our lives. At the same time, innovative technologies can drive the development of JD's future business," said Long Yu, chief human resources officer at JD.com.

Together with third parties, the company will launch the AR home decoration product. With the AR shopping app, users can "see" virtual items in a real environment, such as the position of a sofa and the color of the wallpaper. At the same time, users can have a real-time conversation with designers to discuss the interior layout of their home.

Apart from AR, JD currently uses VR technologies on 3C (computer, communications and consumer electronics), home appliances and other fields. Putting on a VR headset, users can pick up the selected product and view it in 360 degrees.

In February, JD's rival Alibaba invested in US-based mixed reality startup Magic Leap. Then it announced the establishment of its own VR research lab, GnomeMagic Lab. And in July, Alibaba provided a preview of its "Buy+" virtual store at the Taobao Maker Festival in Shanghai.

According to a jointly issued VR & AR market analysis report by JD and research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), as the VR market develops rapidly, the fourth quarter will usher in full-blown competition.

IDC China managing director Kitty Fok said that the VR market would maintain its rapid growth, with the compound annual growth rate up to 75.5 percent from 2015 to 2020.

"With JD's key business lying in online shopping malls, VR and AR technologies will help improve the impact of commodity displays, and boost the company's business. As a representative of B2C platforms, JD's main users are people aged between 20 to 35 with medium to high incomes, who are aware of VR and AR technologies," said Zhao Ziming, an analyst at Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys.

However, James Yan, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said in an earlier interview that the application of VR in e-commerce would need more time to take off because it is difficult to make people form the habit of using VR technology to shop. "And VR content for shopping is also in desperate need," he said.

On Tuesday, JD also announced its cooperation with domestic VR manufacturer Beijing Baofeng Mojing Technology Co Ltd over the next three years, to sell 15 million VR headsets.