Marrying marketing research and virtual reality


Marketing researchers are constantly attuned to the methodology of data collection, understanding this facet of research on a number of dimensions: collection procedure validity, demand characteristics, length of field execution, and research cost. Today’s marketing efforts require researchers to operate faster, better, and at a lower cost than we do now. MarketWare has commercialized a technology for collecting consumer purchasing data which addresses the issues of speed, validity, and expense. Using a virtual reality computer simulation, the Visionary Shopper® research service puts consumers in a laboratory type setting where consumers are asked to shop as they would normally on a 3-dimensional virtual reality computer system. Consumers can maneuver around store shelves, pick up, examine, and purchase products. The computer system automatically records what they choose to pick up and look at and what they choose to buy. This technology has been used in many parts of the world to investigate the impact of pricing, promotion, packaging, shelf set, and shelf assortment on consumer purchasing behavior. As a simulation, Visionary Shopper provides the consumer with the ability to realistically interact with realistic products in a familiar context. The system is predictive, in that it relies on measures of consumer behavior (not intent) and does not require back data or norms to have the data be understood. Compared to in-market tests, the system is fast (usually 03-Apr weeks per test), flexible (changes are to a computer program, not a store), and relatively inexpensive. The system is confidential, both to the client, who does not expose marketing strategies to the world, and to the respondent, who interacts with a computer rather than an interviewer, avoiding demand characteristics This paper will discuss virtual reality in relation to marketing research, specifically the Visionary Shopper system, presenting its advantages and comparing its use to other technologies.

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