Computer graphic simulations of retail shopping environments have become a popular tool for conducting marketing research, allowing manufacturers and retailers to test innovative marketing concepts with shoppers in realistic, competitive contexts. Virtual store tests can deliver more detailed behavioral data than traditional methods of consumer research and are faster and less expensive than in-store field tests. This article outlines the benefits and limitations of virtual reality simulations, describes the steps involved in creating and running a simulated shopping study, discusses the validity of the simulation technique, provides examples of several commercial and academic research applications, and summarizes the future prospects for using the virtual store for shopper research and other business applications.
Raymond R. Burke is the E.W. Kelley Professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, 1309 East 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-1701. Dr. Burke is the founding director of the School’s Customer Interface Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility for investigating how customers interact with new retail environments and technologies. His research focuses on understanding the influence of the retail context and in-store marketing activities on shopper behavior. Prior to joining IU, Dr. Burke served on the faculties of the Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He can be reached at +1-812-855-1066 (office phone) and email@example.com.
This article is an updated version of a chapter published by Palgrave Macmillan in the handbook Innovative Research Methodologies in Management (see Burke 2018).