The ecommerce giant’s 400 million customers will soon be able to buy products from stores all over the world, by wearing a VR helmet or glasses designed to simulate being in a physical store.

Alibaba says it plans to launch a demonstration VR store by the end of this month and could launch a large-scale rollout by the end of this year.

Shoppers can rotate products they see in the virtual store by moving the controller that connects to the Vive helmet and even ask for a model to show how the product works or is worn. Users can also use the controller to click the buy button to purchase the item in the digital store.

“VR is a great way to demonstrate products or services, especially for some categories, like furniture and travel products.” Zhuang Zhuoran, senior director of mobile at Alibaba, said at the briefing. “It also adds more fun to shopping.”

Alibaba has set up a facility, its Gnome Magic Lab, in March, to develop software that would enable merchants to build virtual stores more easily.

A shopper who wants to test the virtual reality will need VR gear, which ranges in price from $20 to $1,000. VR products are hot at the moment, with consumers buying 300,000 units of VR gear on Alibaba’s Chinese online marketplaces each month, Alibaba says.

Alibaba also has invested in VR technology startups. For example, earlier this year Alibaba led the $794 million funding round for US-based startup Magic Leap Inc.

A version of this appeared in Internet Retailer on July 9. Read the full article here