Traditionally, CES has been the aim for various companies to showcase their latest products. But there is nothing traditional about The Chinese e-commerce giant set their servers on CES itself, aiming to move all trade online. If you ask Alibaba, trading events will eventually be online. These Alibaba Virtual Reality trade shows would be an extension of its current VR offering, like factory tours.

Since Jack ma launched his brainchild platform back in 1999, Alibaba has always been one step ahead of the game. Moreover, as the game kept changing, it was due to Alibaba itself developing. Conquering the trade space, launching the whole thing online, seems to be the next frontier. Let us refrain from calling this ambition revolutionary, but Alibaba has already convinced some 170, 000 suppliers and millions of their customers to make the switch. Now the company has eyes on trade events, a traditionally offline gatherings, to move them in online sphere by way of VR. For now, the feature includes list of exhibitors and their corresponding demos.  

There are a few obvious drawcards of current online or potential VR trade shows. For one, entry tickets would be much cheaper. Consider the $300 ticket for CES, and add the Las Vegas accommodation and travel funds. Alibaba Virtual Reality trade show would cost much less. And if money is not an issue, time often is. Online trade events would prove invaluable for those who for whatever similar reason cannot attend. Only a few clicks or a VR headset away.

What better place to reveal online trade show plans than at CES itself. John Caplan, the company’s head of B2B for North America, points to the spacious Las Vegas Conference Center saying: ‘a couple of times a year people build physical trade events… and if you don’t get on the plane and go, you’re left out’. Caplan further explains: ‘The feature (for Alibaba online trade show) lets you follow the show and the suppliers you’re interested in a virtual way’. For Alibaba the company, digitizing trade shows is a logical move considering the recent attempts to connect suppliers with buyers through its online app.

For Alibaba’s global Head Zhang Kuo, the online VR trade show idea was an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the global trade itself. ‘We see a great potential to digitize global trading so this (the Chinese export) could grow even faster. The economy may go up and down, but the trend of globalization will not change’. Alibaba is not alone in this. The likes of DHgate or Global Sources provide more than apt competition. But Alibaba points out its VR communication advantage, video calls and virtual tours.

Online trade shows are certainly a compelling idea, but does it have enough to convince? Can’t see why not. Online is more convenient and the potential Alibaba Virtual Reality trade show would not replace traditional ones, but would potentially improve and democratize the attendance by quite some margin. A win-win in our book.