One of the most exciting and dynamic trends in market research is integrating advanced virtual reality research technologies.
The word “advanced” is important, because virtual reality has been used in the market research field for several years. However, until recently, the technology was prohibitively expensive for many non-enterprise level businesses, and data collection was manual — typically through phone or in-person interviews, or via paper-based surveys. But these days, what participants pick-up from the “virtual shelf” is automatically stored and organized, plus how they interact with products is captured as well (e.g. turning products over to examine packaging, etc.).
How Virtual Reality is Being Used
Here are some of the innovative ways that virtual reality is being used to glean market research:
- Eye-tracking software that uses heat maps to detect what type of packaging, graphics or other external product-based information appeals to participants (and in what priority).
- Deploying various virtual store layouts to better understand which is the most appealing to target markets (i.e. how products are arranged, shelving configurations, etc.).
- Using virtual focus groups, which can be used for geographically dispersed participants to drive down costs.
- Tracking how participants interact with products (i.e. picking up certain products or brands vs. others, etc.).
- Measuring the impact and effectiveness of in-store marketing and merchandising concepts.
- Engaging participants in real-time conversations as they virtually shop to learn about their thought process, mood and other key pieces of data (this is the convergence of ethnography and virtual research, or what is being called by some in the field as “virtual ethnography”).
Driving Key Objectives and Goals
At the same time, virtual reality is helping businesses achieve important market research goals and objectives, which include:
- Driving down costs, since building a virtual world is less expensive than building a mock store or other real-world setting.
- Supporting scalability, since virtual reality configurations can be expanded to include more participants.
- Increasing confidentiality, since all market research projects can be done away from the actual retail store location — and therefore anonymously and without competitors finding out.
- Integration with other quantitative and qualitative data gathering methods — for example, following-up with participants via online or mobile surveys, etc.
The most exciting aspect of virtual reality in market research, is that essentially we are just at the beginning of this journey. To learn more about leveraging advanced virtual reality technologies to drive your market research results and ROI, contact the Communications For Research team today and speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber.