Author: Sandra S. Liu*, Robert Melara**, Raj Arangarasan***, and Kyung Jae Lee****
* Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, or firstname.lastname@example.org
** Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, or email@example.com
*** Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, or firstname.lastname@example.org
**** Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC V7P2V7, or email@example.com
In this project, the research team developed a new research methodology to allow an objective measurement of the cognitive and psychophysical reactions of consumers to structural changes within realistic store settings. The research methodology combines a new tool of immersive virtual reality display, built recently in the Purdue Envision Center, with a set of objective and subjective measurements of the consumer experience. The virtual display is a photorealistic rendering of a virtual mall and store, which was developed through stereoscopic rendering technology. Within this virtual environment, participants navigated through a virtual mall and engage in various shopping tasks (e.g., purchasing items from a predetermined list, browsing merchandise, comparing brands and prices, etc.). During this exploration, a set of objective variables was measured, including navigational path, type and accuracy of intended purchases, time of purchase deliberation, and biases in purchase decisions. After the store exploration, participants were surveyed for details of their usual shopping habits and their recent experience in the virtual store. Together, the objective and subjective measures provided a full picture of buying habits within a tailored shopping environment. This approach differs from previous use of static measures in existing research by enabling dynamic manipulation of specific aspects of the physical environment (e.g., store layout and merchandizing) and real-time monitoring of its effects on the purchasing behavior of different consumer types. The project demonstrates systematic changes in shopping behavior as a function of test conditions. The results confirm the validity, flexibility, and power of this new research methodology.