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Virtual Reality for Retail Market Research – Is It Viable?

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Most of the time we hear about Virtual Reality in news, it is related to a consumer-side breakthrough like a very touching story portrayed in a VR film, or a video game being released, or a VR application that takes you to a store while you are sitting on your couch.

Even after a huge market competition that hops between HTC Vive’s price cuts and Facebook’s Oculus’ discounts, the consumer hasn’t adopted VR as rapidly as was expected by many. VR is a tool of great value, that’s for sure, but the consumers aren’t ready to see it yet, or just can’t justify the hefty price tag that goes with high-end VR setups. Businesses, however, have seen great potential in Virtual Reality and can readily invest in the technology if it presents itself in a business case.

A considerable example of businesses growing interested in virtual reality is the recent incorporation of VR by USPS into its student driver initiative. Walmart has also announced that it is exploring solutions for training employees using virtual reality to create immersive real-life scenarios digitally. Many other companies have found uses of VR and have seen countless benefits.

One of the greatest uses of virtual reality for businesses is turning out to be its ability to help in retail market research.

Data-supported decisions instead of hunches:

Most retailers today accept that the traditional research methods are quite flawed and often result in incomparable losses for the businesses. Some of the worst shortcomings of traditional research methods are listed below:

  1. Inaccurate forecasting. Shop along, purchase intent surveys, and focus groups are not always accurate and can often cause the businesses to get the wrong idea which leads to making the wrong decision.
  2. Expensive and time-consuming. To be able to conduct reliable, comprehensive, and accurate researches on the retail market, businesses have to sacrifice a lot of precious time and finances.
  3. Inefficient communication and decision making. Most of the major companies have their stakeholders dispersed around the world. This distance causes a disturbance in communication standards and the transmission of ideas becomes almost impossible.

Due to these problems faced by the traditional research and communication methods, most of the decisions made by major companies are based purely on hunches instead of comprehensive and accurate data.

How is Virtual Reality improving the situation for retail businesses?

We have discussed the major problems that are being faced by retail businesses currently. How virtual reality plays a huge role in making decision making better for these businesses, let’s discuss.

For starters, a great use of virtual reality for retail market research is to send customers into virtual shopping environments and monitor their behavior and use pattern recognition techniques to get the real psychology of a particular class of customers.

Some could say that we can use this very exact methodology without Virtual Reality. The answer is yes, you can set up a real physical store and monitor customers’ behavior, but can you imagine the expenses of creating a physical store for just research purposes. Moreover, can you imagine the amount of time and funding it would take to implement an experimental floor plan in a physical location?

We have to bear in mind that data never lies, it has been established in psychological studies that often, even the individuals themselves don’t know what they want. How can we then rely on their views, knowing that our customers are just saying what they think they prefer? These flaws in traditional market research methods are tackled efficiently by VR.