Virtual reality can help brands get new in-store initiatives right

by Guest Contributor Nicole Johnson | April 17, 2019

Author: Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson
Virtual Reality Solutions Manager
Insights Division, Kantar

Brands must break through and win at shelf, but with an average supermarket stocking over 40,000 different products, that’s no mean feat. Whether it’s a new pack design, advertising at shelf or off-shelf display, virtual reality can help give marketers the confidence that their money will be well-spent.

Last week’s post asked why, given the potential downside of fumbling a packaging change, are companies not more eager to develop and test an effective transition strategy. Even the best brands can sometimes get it wrong. For example, Dove launched a range of bottle shapes, designed to mimic the body types of their female customers. But it turns out women didn’t want to pick out their imperfect body type from a shelf; so, despite the overall success of their Real Beauty campaign, Dove faced major backlash for this packaging misstep. Too often substantial amounts of time and money are spent developing new ideas like this, only for them to fail. Why? Because the time wasn’t taken to test the initiative with the ultimate decision maker, the shopper.

To succeed in-store, you need to understand shopper reactions to marketing activations before you take them to market. We know that 90 percent of shopper’s time in-store is spent navigating categories and shelves, leaving only 10 percent of time spent interacting with and selecting products. This means the narrow window in which brands have the opportunity to engage the shopper is critical. By closely replicating your own in-store environments, not only is it proven to prompt natural behaviours, giving you valuable insight; but it does so without the need for retailer agreements or the building of costly (both in time and money) physical mock stores.


VR has come a long way the last few years, making it more affordable, more realistic and supported by an ever-growing library of pre-existing virtual stores – quicker to run! Once a template is adapted to a brand’s specific needs it becomes a platform for repeat testing, allowing you to compare new activations with previous successes. With 30 percent of shoppers walking away from a shelf without buying anything, a controlled environment and consistent approach to testing can ensure your marketing activations win in the moment.

By constantly observing, measuring and comparing shoppers behaviours in the virtual stores, VR delivers data points on findability, penetration (conversion of pick up to purchase) and basket size among many others. VR negates the risk of relying on respondents to recall or even be aware of their in-store behaviours after the fact, delivering a holistic view of the shopper experience; enabling you to identify effective pack designs which will drive conversion at shelf and reject the initiatives which do not land with shopper. Is it worth the risk of taking it to market without testing? Please share your thoughts.