Interactive 3D Simulations in Measuring Consumer Preferences: Friend or Foe to Test Results?

Alma Berneburg
University of Applied Sciences in Merseburg, Germany

INTRODUCTION

Adopting virtual reality (VR) techniques could offer many advantages for market research: Artificial lab environments could be designed in a more realistic manner to enhance the validity of test results. Time to market factors could be considered more accurately, and test results would appear faster and with less expense, because instead of expensive dummies and real products, the VR approach could use highly flexible virtual products and point-of-sale simulations (Burke 1996; Horst and Berneburg 2006).

Yet such new techniques also potentially introduce new concerns, which could threaten the quality of survey results. The increasing degree of reality provided by VR technology likely increases the level of submersion in the lab survey (Isgrò et al. 2004). In this case, the quality of a respondent's answers might improve or rather deteriorate, posing a sizeable threat to the quality of the test results. When the respondent is immersed in the VR environment, the focal market research task could fall victim to the tension-filled adventure of a VR experience. In turn, the objects of investigation (e.g., buying decisions, consumer preferences) could suffer because the respondent's exaggerated concentration on the task would differ substantially from the often habitual decisions consumers make in their day-to-day lives. To avoid either thoughtlessly ignoring a promising new survey tool or, worse, adopting a biased new instrument in market research, a comparative analysis seems necessary.