Virtual Reality: Are we watching the future of market research?

Posted on 29 May, 2017

Who hasn’t heard of virtual reality? Thanks to the advances in technology it has now become a familiar concept to everyone, including the youngest. For example, in Sweden, McDonald’s has even invited children to turn the children’s menu box into a pair of  Happy Goggles, a virtual reality viewer. In market research, the field that concerns us, virtual reality is also here to stay.

There are several research teams around the world working to see if virtual reality can influence the perception of products tested by consumers. At the moment, it seems that consumers become more involved when using these technologies compared to traditional laboratory tests. However, more studies are needed to prove this hypothesis.

What we do know is that the price of virtual reality is being democratized. Gadgets such as the Ricoh Theta S camera, the Oculus Rift glasses, the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Cardboard VR (which cost only 10 euros) already allow immersive experiences at a not excessively high cost, as the Sensory Value team found out at the last  Eurosense conference in Dijon (France).

A virtual coffee bar for tasting coffee

Instead of carrying out a sensory evaluation of a sample of coffee in the typical room with white screens, why not do it in a coffee bar? This is what a group of researchers researchs at Ohio State University  proposed in a study to assess whether a virtual reality environment improves the results of consumer perception studies.

Fuente: Contextual Cues in Sensory Testing, Dr. Jamie Zumach y Dr. Christopher Simons. The Ohio State University

Thus, the research team prepared two rooms to test the product. One contained only a computer, several samples of coffee in polystyrene cups and a red light. The other room, located in the Immersive Technologies Laboratory at the university, had been fitted out with virtual reality technology: nine large-format displays that showed a real coffee shop and a bartender working there, speakers with ambient sound, a scent-generating device emitted the smell of freshly baked cakes, and the coffee samples presented in ceramic mugs.

According to the researchers, this experiment in Ohio showed that consumers become more absorbed in product testing if immersive technologies are used. In other words, we can say that the context is a key part of the consumer experience.

There is still much work to be done in the field of market research and virtual reality. However, in Sensory Value we are sure that these first experiments with immersive, 360º technology will lead us to develop new market research methodologies. At Sensory Value we are working in this filed and will soon be sharing our progress with you.

The future is totally digital … and sensory.

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