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In August, my blog post focused on how Virtual Shopping technology evolved from its inception through today.September's post focused on the many ways in which Virtual Shopping is currently being utilized. This installment is going to focus on industries outside of 'traditional' CPG and Retail where Virtual Shopping research is being utilized.

Just as the applications for virtual testing have expanded within the FMCG and Retail verticals, other industries are also embracing the promise of simulated environments and interactive tools within the consumer research they conduct. The following section examines a few noteworthy examples.

  • Technology and Telecom: The technology and telecom industries routinely utilize virtual testing for understanding in-store shopping behaviors, optimizing pricing and identifying which Point-of-Sale (POS) information is most impactful on purchase. This research often includes multiple cells of respondents with each exposed to different product information and pricing scenarios, with the resulting comparative analysis revealing the relative impact of varying levels of product information on purchase intent.
  • Financial Services: Banks and other financial Institutions first turned to virtual testing approaches for the same reasons that Retailers do: to understand guest experience and identify areas within new branch designs and in-store marketing materials that may influence consumer behavior. Over time, this has evolved into the development of new approaches that serve to simulate or mimic other consumer touchpoints with their financial institution. One such approach is a Vision Critical application called "Virtual MailboxÛ that imitates consumer interaction with direct mail, allowing respondents to sift through mail, "keepÛ or "throw outÛ items, and then "openÛ and read the materials. Respondents can also interact with the creative and copy for each piece, highlighting areas that are appealing, confusing etc. This provides a realistic platform for marketers in the Financial Services industry to test and optimize their direct mail efforts from both efficiency and call to action perspectives.

  • Automotive and Aviation: Automotive and Aviation manufacturers have also experimented with a wide variety of virtual testing methods for optimizing the design and interaction aspects of their products. This includes immersive virtual depictions of exterior and interior design elements in which navigation / viewing behavior is tracked and the virtual experience is followed up by evaluative questions surrounding consumer preferences.
  • Quick Service Restaurants (QSR): Quick Service Restaurant operators have also adopted virtual testing methods for interior and drive-thru menu board optimization, as well as in-store signage testing. In these applications, virtual ordering experiences are mined to identify which menu items and signage are most impactful in purchase decisions, allowing QSR operators to optimize menu real estate to maximize sales of high-profit items by day-part and shopper types.

  • Others: A wide variety of other industries are also experimenting with virtual testing methods, including casinos for new game testing and shopper marketing agencies who are utilizing virtual testing to validate in-store and creative executions of their work.

We've seen how widely Virtual Shopping has expanded and is being adopted. In my next and final post on the topic, I'll focus on how Virtual Shopping may one day be replaced by Augmented Reality research.

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