Alibaba To Let VR Shoppers Pay With A Nod

What Happened
Alibaba’s Ant Financial recently demonstrated a payment service developed by its incubator F Lab that allows shoppers to confirm their purchases in virtual reality simply by nodding their heads. Dubbed VR Pay, the new payment system is Alibaba’s latest effort to explore the ecommerce potential of virtual reality. The VR payment system also uses a “voice print” technology for verifying user identity by recognizing each person’s unique voice. Alibaba says VR Pay is set for commercial launch by the end of this year.

Why Brands Should Care
This is not the first time Alibaba has experimented with new forms of digital payments. Last year, it rolled out a facial recognition feature in its Alipay service that allows users to authenticate their payments with a selfie. As VR devices continue to inch closer to mainstream consumer adoption, brands would be smart to keep abreast of the development of virtual ecommerce and start exploring emerging sales channels.

Source: Reuters

Global Watch: Alibaba Acquires China’s YouTube

What Happened
China’s leading ecommerce giant Alibaba has acquired Youku Tudou, China’s leading digital video site, for $3.67 billion. Previously, Alibaba held a 18.3% share in the online video company. Pending regulatory approval, Alibaba will gain access to over 580 million monthly users watching videos on Youku Tudou with this takeover, further bolstering its position in the Chinese digital media market.

Market Impact
To put it as an analogy using their U.S. equivalents, this acquisition is essentially China’s Amazon buying China’s YouTube. This deal provides Alibaba with a new vital channel to reach potential online shoppers and, presumably, to integrate its ecommerce assets, such as payment information and consumer data, to create better, actionable video ads. Meanwhile, Youku Tudou gains Alibaba’s support to help it compete with rival video sites, such as Baidu’s IQiYi and Tencent Videos, and solidify its leading position in the Chinese digital video market.

For brands that have a presence in the Chinese market or looking to enter it, this deal should spell great opportunities to reach Chinese consumers via digital video ads and leverage Alibaba’s consumer data to target the right audience segments for direct sales.


Source: Wall Street Journal

Ecommerce Giants Continue Move Into Physical Retail Space

What Happened
Amazon has signed a lease for a prime warehouse formerly used by Tesco as a distribution center, in preparation for the imminent U.K. launch of its grocery delivery service. Similarly, Alibaba announced a $4.5 billion investment in Suning, a major electronics retailer in China, in hopes of connecting online shoppers with physical stores and further expanding its delivery network.

What Brands Should Do
As the traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are going online and building out their digital assets, some ecommerce brands, including Warby Parker and Casper, have been venturing into physical retail to take advantage of the benefits that physical storefronts offer. For digital-native brands seeking faster delivery service or even to expand beyond ecommerce, eclipsing the existing retail and logistical infrastructure via either partnerships or acquisitions would be a good place to start.

Source: The WSJ & The Guardian

Amazon Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary With “Prime Day” Sales Event

Read original story on: ZDNet

To celebrate its 20-year anniversary since launch, Amazon is planning a one-day-only sales event dubbed “Prime Day” that aims to encourage both transaction volumes and prime membership sign-ups.

Looking to make it into what Amazon calls “a global shopping event,” the ecommerce giant claims it will be offering “more deals than Black Friday,” exclusively for Prime members in the U.S., U.K., and 7 other global markets. Considering that Prime members on average reportedly spend $1,500 on Amazon a year, more than doubling the $625 non-members spend, it makes perfect sense for Amazon to create ways to lure more customers into Prime membership.

While it may be a first for Amazon, it certainly isn’t the first time an ecommerce site has tried to make a spectacle out of a sales event. In China, Alibaba has been single-handedly spearheading its Annual Sales on Single’s Day – a brand new holiday pushed into public consciousness by Alibaba’s marketing department – into a nationwide online shopping craze. Last year, it even broke the global single-day ecommerce sale record with a smashing $9.3 billion (RMB 57.1 billion) in total transaction volume. If Amazon could score half the success that Alibaba has bad with Single’s Day, Prime Day may very well become a yearly event.

Why Messaging App Tango Launched In-App Shop

Read original story on: TechCrunch

Mobile messaging app Tango is taking a page out of WeChat’s playbook with the launch of an in-app commerce service called Tango Shop. Initially available in the US, Tango’s e-commerce platform is powered by two retail giants, Alibaba and Walmart.  The Tango shop features a wide variety of items that can be purchased without leaving the chat app. Payment and logistics are handled by the two retail partners.

Messaging apps have enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years, emerging as a major platform in the mobile ecosystem. As of the third quarter of 2014, 616 million global users were using chat app and mobile instant messengers, spending 7.6 hours per month on them on average. Accordingly, mobile messaging commerce has been seeing some early success in Asia markets with LINE in Japan and WeChat in China, where it has become the de facto mobile Internet platform in China, particularly for retailers.

However, messaging app-based mobile commerce has yet to take off in the U.S., where the relatively high usage of iMessage and persisting popularity of SMS has made it harder to build a mainstream audience for chat apps. Still, if the recent success of Snapchat, with its relentless push towards original content, is any indication, messaging app-based mobile commerce could certainly take off in the U.S. market sooner rather than later.

Would You Pay With Your Face?

Read original story on: Re/Code

Forget mobile payment—in the near future, customers may be able to complete a transaction with a selfie. At the recent CeBit Conference in Germany, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma demonstrated a payment system using facial recognition technology on a smartphone.

Currently being tested by Ant Financial, an Alibaba affiliate that also runs its Alipay payment service, this pay-with-your-face system is reported to be aiming for a 2017 public release.  No word yet on whether it could differentiate photos from a real person, but Ma did express his firm belief in the system replacing passwords and fingerprints as the preferred mobile payment method.

Why Snapchat Is Looking To Broadcast Live Sports

Read original story on: Digiday

As part of its continuing effort to diversify content and evolve into a media platform, Snapchat is now working to get live sports in its “Our Story” feature, starting with the NCAA Final Four, by making media-rights deals with sports leagues and broadcast networks. The popular messaging app is also reportedly raising money from Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba at a $15 billion valuation, up from its $10 billion valuation last year.

Global Watch: Secrets To Alibaba Record-Smashing Single’s Day Sale

 A new global e-retail record was set on November 11 when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba finished its annual sale on Single’s Day—a new holiday in China popularized and trademarked by Alibaba to encourage splurging on oneself—with a smashing $9.3 billion (RMB 57.1 billion) in total transaction volume. This astronomical number surpassed the combined $3.7 billion online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday made from desktops in the U.S. last year, according to comScore.

To achieve such an impressive number, Alibaba tried a couple of new tricks this year. First, it streamlined the purchase experience on smartphones, where 43% of this year’s sales reportedly came from. It also signed special logistics deals with delivery companies to facilitate faster movement of the 200 million orders generated on that day.

Alibaba also successfully connected Chinese consumers with international brands and online retailers: more than 200 merchants from over 20 countries participated with special discounts, including Muji, Desigual, and The North Face. Chinese shoppers bought overseas deals not just though Alibaba’s own retail sites, such as Taobao and Tmall, but also from overseas retailers’ official websites with Alipay, thanks to its newly-launched EPass program.

Considering the 60% increase from last year’s sales, Alibaba’s strategy of turning a silly, unofficial holiday into a national shopping frenzy provides a shining example for retailers worldwide.

What Alibaba Is Courting Hollywood For

 Read original story on: AdAge

Armed with $25 billion from its historic IPO, Alibaba is now following the footsteps of Netflix and courting Hollywood for entertainment content to sell to Chinese consumers through its set-top boxes. Its founder Jack Ma is reportedly meeting with major Hollywood studios, including Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Universal, seeking either rights to distribute U.S. film and TV at home, or investments in studio stakes.


Alibaba Just Had The Biggest IPO In History

Alibaba, the leading company in China’s ecommerce industry, opened at $92.70 a share on the New York Stock Exchange today, making it the biggest public offering in U.S. history. This is hardly surprising to anyone who knows the company, as it is the most popular destination for online shopping in China, the fastest growing ecommerce market in the world. At more than $92.50 per share, Alibaba’s market cap is hovering around $228 billion, which makes it larger than Facebook, IBM, and its American counterpart Amazon.