SAN DIEGO: Diageo, the alcoholic drinks manufacturer, has already made effective use of virtual reality (VR) as a tool for conducting impactful consumer research.

Jason Chebib, VP/Consumer Planning at Diageo North America, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2017 Digital & Social Media Conference.

“At Diageo, we now routinely test many aspects of the consumer’s in-store experience with our brands using VR,” he said. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Diageo steps into virtual reality.)

“VR can already be used to research product placement, aisle and end-cap design, packaging standouts, and point-of-sale marketing.”

And studies by the company have indicated, for example, that there is a strong correlation between how consumers react to in-store experiences rendered in VR and their responses in actual bricks-and-mortar outlets.

This was evidenced by an in-store initiative from last year that aimed to educate consumers about different taste profiles in the whiskey category.

“In a recent test of an in-store Diageo promotion called ‘Whiskey 5’, virtual-reality testing [accurately] predicted a gain of 5.6% in Diageo products bought per customers,” Chebib said.

“That may not sound like a lot – about one extra shot glass full per regular size glass bottle – but, believe me, that’s an uptick that’s well worth packing in across one’s whiskey portfolio.”

Looking ahead, he suggested this channel could also enable research that would not be possible in the real world, such as having people deal with the effects of drinking.

“In the future, VR will help Diageo and other alcoholic beverage companies carry out research with consumers or bartenders in a closer to real way without incurring the risk of contravening the stringent rules and regulations surrounding alcohol research,” said Chebib.

Virtual reality, equally, holds out the promise of delivering invaluable data for marketers, particularly when employed with additional research methods.

“Not only is this about taking stuff to the consumer,” Chebib said, “but VR techniques like these, used for research, can also yield very rich consumer data, especially when combined with eye-tracking and other observational and analytical techniques.”

Data sourced from WARC