Using a virtual grocery store to simulate shopping behaviour

H.W.I. van Herpen, T. Yu, E.M.F. van den Broek, J.C.M. van Trijp

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


Introduction Simulating a store environment by using virtual reality techniques offers important potential advantages for research into consumer behaviour. Through the use of virtual reality, the store can be simulated in a realistic and cost-efficient way [1,9]. This allows researchers to collect data in a tightly controlled but realistic store environment, at relatively low cost and high flexibility [3]. Virtual supermarket systems are being used to study consumers’ reactions to price changes of food products [12], emotional responses to retail environments [6], and responses to emptied shelf space [4]. In order to fulfil its promise, a good understanding of which types of responses in a virtual environment resemble real-life behaviour, and which do not, is vital. Identifying areas where caution is needed can prevent unjustified generalizations of virtual reality outcomes [3]. At the same time, it is important to understand what the added realism of virtual reality has to offer, over and above the use of simpler pictorial stimulus materials. For instance, prior research has shown that an increase in visual realism can enhance spatial learning of a virtual layout [7] and effectiveness and efficiency in navigation tasks [8]. The present study builds on and extends this work by comparing a choice task using virtual reality to both a shopping trip in a real brick-and-mortar supermarket (with a similar choice task) and a choice task using product pictures. The key question is in which ways the choice behaviour of consumers is well represented in a virtual supermarket, and on which variables there are deviations from reality. A few prior studies have examined how consumer choices in a virtual store environment compare to actual sales data (e.g., [2,3]). Yet, there are many reasons why market shares may differ from choices made in a virtual environment, and not all are related to the use of virtual reality as such. Benchmarking against existing methodologies is important to gain insight into the relative strengths and weaknesses of these methods. In virtual reality, as opposed to a pictorial representation, people have a better view of individual products from all angles, have a better feel for the shelf space assigned to products and the way shelves are organized, can manoeuvre through the store, and get a better feel for the overall store atmosphere. Taken together, this should increase people’s sense of being present in the virtual store and possibly allow for more habitual consumer behaviour to occur.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventMeasuring Behavior 2014 - Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 27 Aug 201429 Aug 2014


ConferenceMeasuring Behavior 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Using a virtual grocery store to simulate shopping behaviour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this