VR eye tracking a growing market testing tool

Cost and speed drive retail researchers to embrace a new technology combo.

Explorer Research, a Toronto-area market research firm, recently announced it would offer a combination of two ascendant technologies: virtual reality and eye tracking.

VR testing and eye tracking aren’t new on their own, but as VR headsets proliferate and manufacturers compete on product features, eye tracking is being built in to more and more headsets.

Explorer Research and its competitors are increasingly touting the benefits of VR retail and product testing as either a replacement or complementary service to physical retail labs.

“VR offers immersive yet flexible testing, iterative testing and rapid prototyping. The ability to rapidly prototype provides the benefit of speed to market,” says Anne Stephenson, a partner at Explorer, in a statement.

This type of service has testers explore a virtual retail environment while sensors track where they look and even some of their physiological reactions to certain stimuli.

“It’s all about cost savings,” says Diana Lucaci, found and CEO of neuromarketing research firm True Impact. “To build a mock store, you need space and you need product to stock the shelves.”

This approach has obvious material and space limitations that can in turn limit how much work one can test in a period of time.

“In a virtual reality environment, you’re able to not only test different retail layouts, the location of point of purchase displays, planograms and aisle structures, but you can do so at a higher scale. You can find out if a certain idea works better after testing as many as 10 different concepts.”

True Impact worked with design firm Shikatani Lacroix last year to help a financial sector client test retail environments using VR, eye tracking and augmented reality.

Some new and upcoming models of commercially available VR headsets will include eye-tracking hardware, while others are offering upgrade kits for older products.