Thailand’s V-Avenue virtual mall is a hit thanks to Covid-19 curbs

BANGKOK, September 10 (The Straits Times/ANN): When shopping malls and retail markets in Thailand remained closed due to Covid-19 restrictions last year, the country’s largest mobile operator Advanced Info Services ( AIS) has made the leap into the metaverse by opening a virtual mall, V-Avenue.

The immersive shopping experience allows users to browse over 200 stores and has attracted some two million unique visitors.

By accessing V-Avenue through a web browser, users land in a 3D-rendered virtual shopping district and enter buildings that can also be explored in 360 degrees.

Users can “walk” through buildings such as the Emporium department store and browse brand counters and products on shelves or shelves.

They can also collect coupons that can be used for purchases at physical retailers such as electronics store Power Buy.

In October last year, AIS, whose parent company Intouch is backed by Singtel, introduced Thailand’s first metaverse influencer AI-Ailynn as its brand ambassador.

“We think the metaverse will be the next big thing,” said Pratthana Leelapanang, head of consumer affairs at AIS.

“As a telecommunications provider with many partners and networks, we believe we can grow the world of the metaverse with the right technology and the right costs.”

Over the past year, several Thai conglomerates and start-ups have also ventured into metaverse initiatives, either creating their own virtual worlds or hosting virtual shops or events.

AIS’s efforts in the metaverse began more than two years ago when it launched its first commercial 5G network in Thailand, Pratthana said.

He said while malls have since reopened after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, V-Avenue still has around 700,000 monthly active users.

While the Metaverse is still in its infancy, Pratthana believes that will change over the next five years.

With approximately 45 million subscribers in Thailand, AIS is expanding V-Avenue to include more partners, including small and medium retailers.

In March, it announced a collaboration with real estate developer Origin to offer real estate showrooms and also introduced a new feature allowing users to customize their avatars on the platform.

5G networks growing nationwide are also key to supporting the Metaverse and its activities, but Pratthana said gadgets and software must grow in tandem “so users get the best experience”.

AIS is working with other technology companies to release new virtual reality devices and software to facilitate this, Pratthana said.

The biggest reward is increased customer retention, which the company thinks it can achieve.

“Also, if you don’t take any risks, you won’t succeed either,” Pratthana said. – The Straits Times/ANN

Edwin S. Wolfe