Megan Gell
Aug 16, 2018

Case study: Alibaba at CES 2018

Alibaba's next-gen booth stood out from the crowd at one of the biggest gadget shows of the year.

Case study: Alibaba at CES 2018

CES is the biggest gadget show of the year, the place where all the major tech companies show off their latest efforts. Formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, it is held in Las Vegas each January. Besides  product launches and eye-catching prototype demos, it is a favoured platform for Asia-based brands looking to go global.

Pico+ has been working at CES for more than 10 years, but for the 2018 edition it was commissioned by Alibaba to create its 400-sqm booth. Though they have worked together on several projects, it was the first time the two companies had paired up for a US event.

Alibaba wanted to bring the brand to life, as well as to familiarise audiences with its full suite of offerings and key strategic partners. These audiences included both the event’s physical attendees as well as the millions of tech fans worldwide who tune in to CES-related content online. 

“The greatest challenge CES poses is making an impact in such a crowded event,” says Lee Roth, general manager at Pico+ US. “Brands invest heavily in their presence at CES, so we really need to raise the game every year.”

Indeed. With some 4,000 booths and 180,000 visitors to attract and engage, competition is fierce. Pico+ created a striking geometric form for the booth to help it stand-out, then kitted it out with interactive technology. This included several VR-based activities, AR interactive software, LED overhead elements, video walls, multi-touch software and transparent touchscreens.

Internally the booth was largely open-plan, emphasising Alibaba’s integration into every part of daily life. Themed ‘Discover Beyond’, spaces devoted to each of Alibaba’s five business units were separated only by lines of light.

Each unit was developed with its own ‘Discover Beyond’ sub-theme: ‘Trade Beyond Distance’ for the B2B services; ‘Work Beyond Tradition’ for the DingTalk communications and collaboration platform; ‘Life Beyond Boundaries’ for A.I. Labs’ domestic artificial intelligence; ‘Intelligence Beyond Imagination’ for the Alibaba Cloud computing platform; and ‘Opportunity Beyond Limits’ for the Ant Financial service platform for small enterprises and consumers.

Digital amplification

Every experience must now extend its reach beyond the immediate physical audience, and both Alibaba and Pico+ were keen to live stream content from CES in order to connect the offline event to online audiences. 

“The basis was simple: CES is an amazing event where there is a deluge of news about new products, features and companies,” says Roth. “For those who aren’t attending in person, there is a tremendous curiosity about it. We wanted to satisfy that curiosity by providing SMBs in the US and China with the inside scoop.

“We started by defining the content buckets and locations we wanted to cover. These ranged from the speaker programmes and SMB interviews to exploring other companies’ booths and experiences.

"We built out a run of show that covered the four days of CES, plus a little teaser for the day before. We hired two hosts to join us on the journey, and they did a fantastic job. We ended up reaching millions of people across Facebook, YouTube and”


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