Immersive virtual reality techniques present new opportunities for research into consumer behavior. The current study examines whether the increased realism of a virtual store compared to pictorial (2D) stimuli elicits consumer behavior that is more in line with behavior in a physical store. We examine the number, variety, and type of products selected, amount of money spent, and responses to price promotions and shelf display, in three product categories (fruit & vegetables, milk, and biscuits). We find that virtual reality elicits behavior that is more similar to behavior in the physical store compared to the picture condition for the number of products selected (Milk: Mstore = 1.19, Mvirtual = 1.53, Mpictures = 2.58) and amount of money spent (Milk: Mstore = 1.27, Mvirtual = 1.53, Mpictures = 2.60 Euro), and for the selection of products from different areas of the shelf, both vertically (purchases from top shelves, milk and biscuits: Pstore = 21.6%, Pvirtual = 33.4%, Ppictures = 50.0%) and horizontally (purchase from left shelf, biscuits: Pstore = 35.5%, Pvirtual = 53.3%, Ppictures = 66.7%). This indicates that virtual reality can improve realism in responses to shelf allocation. Virtual reality was not able to diminish other differences between lab and physical store: participants bought more products and spent more money (for biscuits and fruit & vegetables), bought more national brands, and responded more strongly to price promotions in both virtual reality and pictorial representations than in the physical store. Implications for the use of virtual reality in studies of consumer food choice behavior as well as for future improvement of virtual reality techniques are discussed.
- Virtual reality
- Virtual store