Using virtual reality to maximize the effectiveness of merchandising
A vitamin manufacturer wants to test the effectiveness of a different shelf display design – trying a vertical set (brands and private labels arranged in vertical blocks) vs. the current checkerboard layout (private-label SKUs adjacent to branded SKUs) they currently use in retail stores.
Two key objectives are set for this project:
1. Determine potential sales for vertical set.
The manufacturer wants to know if switching shelf layout from checkerboard to vertical would have a positive impact on sales. Assess the current retail environment and for the product and determine potential sales volume in the product’s category.
2. Identify consumer response to vertical set.
Utilize technology to fully explore the pros and cons of a vertical set. Beyond sales volume, would switching to a vertical set shelf layout cause any other problems for the customer? Would it make it easier/harder to find products? Would the change alone confuse the customer? Is one layout more/less intuitive for one group of shoppers?
Quality research is the foundation on which successful marketing decisions are made. For this project, Research Services primarily fall into the category of:
New Tech & Innovation Services (link to more info below)
New Tech & Innovation Services utilizes technology that can deliver research in a way that traditional research can’t. The research team determines that virtual reality technology (see METHODOLOGIES below) is the best way to simulate the merchandising environment described above, instead of physically changing in-store environments in multiple locations. In cases such as this, the team knows that technology allows them to simultaneously modify many variables more quickly and cost-effectively than “old school” methods.
The advanced research tools chosen for this project are:
- Virtual Reality In-Store Simulation Testing
In this phase, the category-targeted respondents (pre-qualified as vitamin purchasers) are exposed to a simulated in-store vitamin shelf. Half of the respondents see the vertical set and half see the checkerboard set layout in their virtual reality headsets. In the simulation, participants are presented product options on an interactive shelf where they can pick products up, turn them over, read labels, place them in the shopping cart or return them to the shelf.All respondents go through the shopping simulation, and their selection process (SKU and category-level data) is captured in detail based on:• Viewing time
• Store navigation
• Category dwell time
• Product choice (add to cart)
• Decisions based on product assortment and shelf organization
• Depth of interaction (view or pick up)
- Online chat sessions – post-decision
As a second phase of the virtual ethnography process, after making their shopping decision, the shoppers/respondents participate in online chats with trained moderators. During these recorded discussions, they are asked about why they made the shopping choices they did.
(Due to the confidential nature of research projects and client agreements in force, specific results cannot be shared. Outcomes have been synthesized based on an amalgam of results from similar projects.)
The company gathers much more data than it could have through traditional means (physically changing out stores in test markets) and it is completed in a fraction of the time. The results show that consumers have no confusion or problems with the vertical set layout – in fact, they seem to prefer it over the current checkboard layout. The checkboard shelf set is then immediately replaced in-market and the company realizes a subsequent increase in vitamin sales.