Accenture, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated and Kellogg Company have collaborated to develop and pilot a solution that embeds eye tracking technology in a mobile virtual reality (VR) headset to reinvent how brands and retailers gather critical consumer data and perform market research.
The Accenture Extended Reality (XR) practice developed the VR merchandising solution utilizing a Qualcomm VR reference design headset, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform. The VR merchandising solution features embedded eye-tracking along with mixed reality software from InContext Solutions and eye-tracking data analytics capabilities from Cognitive3D.
The resulting experience immerses consumers in a full-scale, simulated store, enabling them to move through the space, shop, pick up products and place them in carts – all while monitoring what consumers are looking at, for how long and why. The mobile solution is designed to allow companies to extend their reach to more geographically dispersed participants and perform market research faster, more affordably and on a larger scale.
The solution was tested in collaboration with Kellogg Company around the launch of its new Pop Tarts Bites product. The mobile VR eye-tracking solution provided far deeper behavioral data than standard testing, which typically relies on online surveys and in-home user tests.
In fact, this new data led to an entirely different merchandising conclusion than what was determined by traditional methods. Rather than placing Pop Tarts Bites on higher shelves, which conventional testing indicated was where consumers expected to find new products, the VR solution demonstrated that optimal placement for the new product was on lower shelves. This led to an increase in brand sales of 18 percent during testing.
“Our VR merchandising solution has the potential to transform product placement by examining consumer buying behavior in a holistic way,” said Raffaella Camera, global head, Innovation & Market Strategy, Accenture Extended Reality. “By combining the power of VR with eye-tracking and analytics capabilities, it allows significant new insights to be captured while consumers shop by monitoring where and how they evaluate all products across an entire shelf or aisle. Ultimately, this enables product placement decisions to be made that can positively impact total brand sales, versus only single product sales.”
Jenny McDaniels, senior manager of Category Strategy at Kellogg Company added, “When trying to best assess a future product’s shelf placement, this new methodology provided optimal guidance from both a product and category perspective. This approach provided multiple data outputs, which in turn, created a holistic solution that would drive success for both the category and product.”
“XR provides transformative value to the enterprise,” said Patrick Costello, senior director of business development at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., “At Qualcomm Technologies, we develop foundational XR technology through our VR reference designs that are engineered to enable companies to evaluate and quickly launch devices. This proof of concept with Accenture and Kellogg Company demonstrates the benefits of full immersion and eye-tracking and we expect several customers to follow with similar deployments.”
This new pilot solution represents an important step toward transforming retail merchandising. Brands spend considerable time, money and manual effort to determine optimal product placement and assortment on store shelves, as well as an ideal pricing strategy. However, these efforts tend to be limited in terms of the depth and quality of data garnered. The VR merchandising solution can provide deeper data while expediting the merchandising process and reducing costs at scale by:
- Expanding testing reach to diverse locations: Companies can invite geographically dispersed consumers to use the mobile VR headsets for product testing in their homes, at brick-and-mortar stores, during product roadshows or at any large consumer gatherings.
- Improving experience in branded environments: Shoppers can walk through realistic and branded virtual store models, look at shelves at their discretion, pick up and examine products, and place selections directly into their carts.
- Increasing the dataset for analytics: During the shopping process, companies can gather data using eye-tracking technology that is built into the VR headset in a manner that does not interrupt the shopping experience. The resulting analytics provide detailed insights into actual consumer behavior, such as which products attract their attention, where they look first or gaze longest, and what helps to trigger buying decisions.
- Decreasing costs while improving flexibility: The VR-based solution makes it easy to test a variety of retail designs and layouts, cost effectively. In a matter of minutes, brands and retailers can modify store and shelf layouts in the VR environment, rotate product inventory and experiment with pricing to determine an optimized plan.
As a strategic initiative of Accenture, the Accenture Extended Reality (XR) practice uses human-centered design principles, deep industry knowledge, global scale, and expertise in combinatorial technologies such as AI and IoT, to help companies imagine, create and deliver impactful XR experiences to unlock new business value. The VR merchandising solution will be on display at MWC 2019 Barcelona from February 25-28 in the Accenture booth.