On September 13, the three-day 2018 Taobao Maker Festival was officially opened.
The Taobao Maker Festival was first held in 2016 and is after the Double 11 Shopping Festival, Alibaba's extensive offline activity for millennial entrepreneurs. The Taobao Maker Festival is more about demonstrating future technologies than increasing sales on the platform. On the one hand, it shows many advanced technologies that will not be widely used in the short term but for the future. On the other hand, entrepreneurs participating in this activity are not of interest because of their current performance but because of their own style, creativity and development potential.
At each Maker Festival, Taobao shows the latest technology since 2016, and the first two Maker Festival launched Buy+ and Self-service Coffee Shops.
At the Double 11 Shopping Festival 2016, Alibaba launched the world's first virtual reality (VR) shopping mall named Buy+.
By opening Buy+, consumers enter a page similar to a dayroom, where consumers can see seven pictures on the wall that correspond to seven malls, such as US Target, Macy's department store, Costoco, Aussie Ranch, Chemist Warehouse, Matsumoto in Japan and Tokyo Otaku Mode. Consumers can click on the image on the wall to go to the corresponding virtual scene, browse goods and buy goods.
As a new technology, VR enhances consumers' shopping experience. For example, Alibaba has incorporated VR technology into Tmall’s international business, providing virtual scenes such as local attractions and store locations that allow consumers to travel around the world and make online purchases overseas.
In 2017, Taobao launched AR Buy+, resulting in a better VR shopping experience. For example, by scanning a car model with the Taobao app, users can participate in car racing and turn, accelerate and sprint the car on the 3D virtual track on their mobile phone. And by upgrading the consumer’s shopping experience to interactive mode, they can make purchases through existing pictures, texts and videos. For retailers, this is undoubtedly a marketing model that can attract the attention of consumers to participate.
Taocafe, a self-service café was unveiled at the 2017 Taobao Maker Festival. Users can visit Taocafe by scanning Taobao’s QR code with their mobile phone. In the café, customers can purchase any goods, complete the payment at the “payment door” by scanning the code of the goods when leaving, and the money will be deducted from the customer’s Alipay account. There is also a dining area in Taocafe, where users can place orders through the voice recognition system.As long as they "confirm" the order, the corresponding payment will automatically be deducted from their Alipay account.
The highlight of this year's Maker Festival was "Taobao Mixed Reality Buy". It was a joint launch of mixed reality (MR) products by Taobao and Microsoft HoloLens. With the HoloLens device, users can see virtual animations, videos and other effects superimposed on the real world.
Take a book as an example. When we open a picture book and look at the picture, we can easily visualise the 3D animation of the virtual person over the book and do a new interpretation of the story. It also supports more extensive activities through our gestures and other actions. On the details page, the book can be put into the shopping cart by touching your index finger with your thumb when you reach the virtual “shopping cart” button.
One can image that the shape of future businesses would change if this technology were fully developed. For example, advertising may be displayed directly in a virtual form, and personalised adjustments may be displayed through 3D images. Because glasses are associated with unique Taobao accounts, more data can be collected, such as the shops visited by the consumers, the visitor activity and the purchase wishes.
Taobao's Maker Festival 2018 has made shopping a more interesting experience. However it is far from being widespread in the market. There are still some issues that need to be resolved, such as the high price of the VR device and its heavy weight, making it unsuitable for long-term use.
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