How Virtual Reality Is Transforming Market Research

 

Certain trends seem to surge and sputter, and then surge and sputter. Two examples might be 3D movies and Ska. The most recent instance is virtual reality, which surged at times in the 90s and 2000s but then sputtered without adhering to mass culture. Virtual reality is back again, with somewhat of a vengeance, highlighted by such technologies as Facebook’s Oculus and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Will virtual reality stick this time? Only time will tell, but it’s already influencing market research and could potentially inform survey research.

In a GreenBook article, editor-in-chief Leonard Murphy makes a strong case that virtual reality is now valuable for market research. Some companies are presently investing heavily on its benefits. Murphy’s findings are largely based on research by Rutgers, and here are his main takeaways:

Approximately 70% of brand decisions occur when consumers are already inside a store. Many consumers wait until the last minute to make a decision. Therefore, no amount of market research preparation can fully overcome the mentioned percentage, except for virtual reality, which can simulate buyer’s journeys in a store in real-time and in-depth behavior.

–  Virtual reality seamlessly incorporates into already-proven technologies like eye tracking and heat maps, in order to gain a comprehensive view of the consumer subconscious desires. As an example, Cadbury has combined these technologies with virtual reality to decipher product shelf placing.
–  In virtual reality shopper simulation, multiple scenarios can be executed. This ultimately may be cost effective for businesses in research projects.
–  Virtual reality focus groups cost 50% less than traditional focus groups, and yield the same accuracy of data.

The pixel-sky is the limit. Virtual reality can be employed beyond just the shopping experience— such as new product concept testing, customer experience model testing and restaurant menu optimization/pricing.

Contrary to some market research Luddites, it should be mentioned that being placed in a virtual world (or The Matrix) is not detrimental to providing accurate responses. As a recent report from a market research company explained, nearly a quarter of consumers feel that virtual interactions are as good as “being there.” The numbers are higher for millennials. Thus, the future implies that virtual scenarios do not pose a problem for researchers.

Nevertheless, could virtual reality pertain to quantitative research? Of course. Google Glass may have been a failure, but it taught that individuals are capable of inputting data while simultaneously interacting with the “real world.” Questionnaires, then, can flash before respondents in virtual settings and completed in real-time. Moreover, the trending issue with widespread consumer rejection of surveys (which we reported on) could also be solved as surveys become far more entertaining and engaging at the same time.

Virtual reality surveys are basically an actual reality, as seen by this graphic from the Lieberman Research Institute:

virtual reality in online surveys

Again, the pixel-sky is the limit. The question remains on whether virtual reality will remain as more than an ephemeral fashion. One figure who is publicly skeptic about virtual reality is computer genius and tech entrepreneur Walter O’Brien (television show Scorpion is based on him). During a recent interview on the Tim Ferris podcast, O’Brien bemoaned the fact that virtual reality has not evolved that much from its 90s incarnation. The technology still needs much more of a “wow” factor, according to him.

Even the buzz on virtual reality appears nonexistent, perhaps due to the past incarnations of the technology. As recent Horizon Media study found that two-thirds of Americans are either unaware of uncaring about having virtual reality.

Following the money trail says otherwise, though. As Murphy explains in the GreenBook article, virtual reality is estimated to generate $30 billion in revenues by 2020. Much of this is due to the increasing reliance of market research projects for this technology.

In essence, market research has time to embrace virtual reality, and those in survey research can get excited at presenting some exciting surveys that improve overall data quality.

Even Ska could be played in the background…

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