Leading retailers are being given the opportunity to use the Data Visualisation Observatory (DVO) to analyse consumer perceptions and purchase behaviour in a virtual reality (VR) environment.
Data specialists at the DVO have set up an immersive virtual reality simulation of a supermarket which can track how consumers interact within a specific retail environment in real-time.
The big benefit of the system for users is the ability to conduct research in a controlled environment which they define themselves. They can also conduct repeat experiments using different store layouts and monitor consumer behaviours, while the platform can also facilitate further data analysis options using AI and data mining algorithms.
Professor Nikolay Mehandjiev from the DVO said: "The project uses a cutting-edge 3D environment to enable high quality research in controlled conditions not possible on site. We hope that this will not only produce quality publications but also attract the interest of stakeholders who do business in the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries.
"The real value for users is the ability to control nearly all parameters of the retail environment, from lighting and noise to the number of other shoppers. A retailer can then experiment with many different layouts and see consumer reactions."
The aim specifically is for retailers to regularly use the DVO by collaborating on specific cutting-edge research projects with the Alliance MBS Retail Forum. "We will recruit members of the public who will physically come into the DVO and act as shoppers under different conditions. Their behaviours will then be tracked and monitored serving as input to shopping behaviour analysis," he added.
Alliance MBS has already started speaking to retailers about the potential for using the platform and for specific commissioned research from retailers.
"Longer term our aim is to attract funding from UK Research and Innovation and the European Research Council to support these wider objectives," added Professor Mehandjiev.