Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Potential of virtual worlds for marketing tests of product prototypes

Potential of virtual worlds for marketing tests of product prototypes

Ratings: (0)|Views: 38 |Likes:
Published by Leonel Morgado
For manufacturers of physical goods, conducting market tests of product prototypes to assess consumers’ preferences can be costly and complex. To some extent, production and logistic processes need to be in place, not just the marketing rationale. We put forth the hypothesis that virtual worlds may be a feasible environment to conduct early market tests of product prototypes for some physical products. The rationale for this hypothesis is that such tests with virtual versions of product prototypes may be conducted with minimal overhead, based on resources from marketing and design departments, without resources from production or logistics. They could be a first filter or selection process to determine which product prototypes demonstrate better
acceptance by the public, with reduced costs and complexity. An expectation is that by having simpler and less costly tests, a wider variety of product prototypes can be considered, and test number and frequency increased, supporting better information gathering. A central question in this regard is the level of similarity between the preferences of the public when presented with virtual items, in comparison with the actual physical items. To attain data about this, we carried out an exploratory study, creating a set of both virtual and physical prototype versions of a physical product: t-shirts. We then invited virtual-world users to experience the virtual t-shirts on their avatars and express their preferences. Finally, we presented users with the option
to buy the physical t-shirts with their own money, at promotional cost (as a reward for participating in the virtual trial), but explicitly told them, as they held the various physical versions in their hands, that they could change their preference at no extra cost. The results identified the level of similarity and differences between buyers’ preferences in these two situations, pointing to the significant potential of using a virtual world to conduct market tests to assess consumers’ preferences on prototypes of physical t-shirts.
For manufacturers of physical goods, conducting market tests of product prototypes to assess consumers’ preferences can be costly and complex. To some extent, production and logistic processes need to be in place, not just the marketing rationale. We put forth the hypothesis that virtual worlds may be a feasible environment to conduct early market tests of product prototypes for some physical products. The rationale for this hypothesis is that such tests with virtual versions of product prototypes may be conducted with minimal overhead, based on resources from marketing and design departments, without resources from production or logistics. They could be a first filter or selection process to determine which product prototypes demonstrate better
acceptance by the public, with reduced costs and complexity. An expectation is that by having simpler and less costly tests, a wider variety of product prototypes can be considered, and test number and frequency increased, supporting better information gathering. A central question in this regard is the level of similarity between the preferences of the public when presented with virtual items, in comparison with the actual physical items. To attain data about this, we carried out an exploratory study, creating a set of both virtual and physical prototype versions of a physical product: t-shirts. We then invited virtual-world users to experience the virtual t-shirts on their avatars and express their preferences. Finally, we presented users with the option
to buy the physical t-shirts with their own money, at promotional cost (as a reward for participating in the virtual trial), but explicitly told them, as they held the various physical versions in their hands, that they could change their preference at no extra cost. The results identified the level of similarity and differences between buyers’ preferences in these two situations, pointing to the significant potential of using a virtual world to conduct market tests to assess consumers’ preferences on prototypes of physical t-shirts.

More info:

Published by: Leonel Morgado on Sep 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

11/16/2012

pdf

text

original

 
Potential of virtual worlds for marketing tests of product prototypes
João Varajão* and Leonel Morgado
Centro ALGORITMI/UTAD, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal; GECAD/UTAD, Universidadede Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal 
(
 Received 17 April 2011;
nal version received 7 November 2011
)For manufacturers of physical goods, conducting market tests of product prototypes to assess consumers
 preferences can be costly and complex. To some extent, production and logistic processes need to be in place,not just the marketing rationale. We put forth the hypothesis that virtual worlds may be a feasible environ-ment to conduct early market tests of product prototypes for some physical products. The rationale for thishypothesis is that such tests with virtual versions of product prototypes may be conducted with minimal over-head, based on resources from marketing and design departments, without resources from production or logis-tics. They could be a
rst 
lter or selection process to determine which product prototypes demonstrate better acceptance by the public, with reduced costs and complexity. An expectation is that by having simpler andless costly tests, a wider variety of product prototypes can be considered, and test number and frequencyincreased, supporting better information gathering. A central question in this regard is the level of similarity between the preferences of the public when presented with virtual items, in comparison with the actual physi-cal items. To attain data about this, we carried out an exploratory study, creating a set of both virtual and physical prototype versions of a physical product: t-shirts. We then invited virtual-world users to experiencethe virtual t-shirts on their avatars and express their preferences. Finally, we presented users with the optionto buy the physical t-shirts with their own money, at promotional cost (as a reward for participating in thevirtual trial), but explicitly told them, as they held the various physical versions in their hands, that theycould change their preference at no extra cost. The results identi
ed the level of similarity and differences between buyers
preferences in these two situations, pointing to the signi
cant potential of using a virtualworld to conduct market tests to assess consumers
preferences on prototypes of physical t-shirts.
Keywords:
marketing tests; virtual world; virtual commerce; virtual business; Second Life
Introduction
In recent years, important changes happened in theway companies can present their products to the pub-lic. The evolution of computers and the day-to-dayimproved ability to make them communicate better have brought down information barriers, and raisednew concepts of social interactivity (Rehmeyer, 2007).Virtual worlds are part of this new reality, with par-ticular emphasis for those that immerse users in quasi-real three-dimensional (3D) environments, as theyenable people to emulate part of their lives and routinesin a virtual manner. This means one can experienceaspects of real life, such as shopping, designing, chat-ting, working, while sitting at one
s desk, behind acomputer (Johnson, 2008). Studies indicate that pres-ence, the sense of being within a virtual space, plays astrong role in psychological processes and on the personal signi
cance of online events (Aas, 2011).The economy is in constant evolution and com-merce is no exception. While electronic commerce isnot a novel concept, in recent years its growth has been considerable in terms of sales volume and publicnotice, with companies using the Internet not only for electronic sales transactions, but also to collect opera-tional and market-related information.Virtual worlds, such as Second Life
Ò
, have brought forward a number of new business opportuni-ties, due to the extended interactivity they allow not yet featured on normal web-based e-commerce sites.In a 3D, multi-user virtual world, the physical con-sumer 
 – 
 product interaction can be mimicked, and manyof the product characteristics may be tried and experi-enced by the potential costumer, and discussed withfriends before buying, an experience closer to thaoccurring with the real-life virtual version of the prod-uct and real-life shopping.
*Corresponding author. Email: jvarajao@utad.pt 
ISSN 0040-5000 print/ISSN 1754-2340 onlineCopyright 
Ó
2011 The Textile Institutehttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00405000.2011.639513http://www.tandfonline.com
The Journal of The Textile Institute
iFirst, 2011, 1
 – 
8
 
This paper presents an exploratory work that aimsto contribute to the study of emerging virtual worldsas marketing tools for businesses. Speci
cally, wewondered if the sense of presence and identity withvirtual world avatars, and the parallels of shoppingexperiences between physical-world shopping and vir-tual-world shopping might render them useful toassess consumers
preferences for physical items, before actually manufacturing them. That is to say, wewondered whether virtual worlds could be a viable platform for less costly market tests of product proto-types of physical items, as a
rst-tier selection processof items to manufacture. By being less costly, suchmarketing tests could be deployed with a larger selec-tion of prototypes, be repeated more often with varia-tions of prototype details, and thus enable eventualmarket tests with the actual manufactured physicalitems to be conducted with better information on con-sumers
preferences of product prototypes and their features.To evaluate the feasibility of this idea, a small business was created, with both virtual and physicalversions of its products (t-shirts). A shop was createdfor this business in the Second Life (SL) virtualworld, where buyers
preferences were evaluated.Buyers were subsequently offered the opportunity to buy the physical t-shirts in
real
life, at a discount  price (for having expressed their preferences in thevirtual world). To do so, they physically met the t-shirt manufacturer and held all t-shirt versions in their hands, physically, before buying. They were told that the discount price applied to all t-shirts: they couldchoose the one they liked the most, it was not neces-sary to select the same they had selected online in thevirtual world.By matching consumers
preferences expressedonline with their actual purchasing decisions whenholding the physical items in their hands, we wereable to compare buyers
preferences between physicaland virtual versions of the products, assessing the potential of using a virtual world to test the feasibilityof a product prototype.The SL virtual world platform allowed us to builda virtual store to collect data. In this store, partiallyautomated and open 24h a day, we displayed posterswith the virtual versions of the physical products (t-shirts) being worn by avatars. Consumers were able to buy the virtual t-shirts and wear them in the virtualworld at no cost, but with a small complication: theyhad to pay a minimum amount of game money (1Linden dollar or L$1, about USD 0.004), which wasautomatically returned to them after buying. This L$1can be obtained either by buying Linden dollars witha credit card, by providing services to other virtualworld users for cash, or by borrowing it from other users. The intent of this complication was to minimizethe risk of having non-virtual world users register inthe virtual world and take part in the test: since wewere announcing it to the local academic community(in order to be able to approach them physically after-wards), some might wish to participate out of eager-ness to be part of our test. Thus, given the L$1requirement, at least some prior experience andengagement with this virtual world was necessary, inorder to possess or acquire the L$1: people could not simply make a registration today in the virtual worldand immediately head for the virtual shop and click on the preferred t-shirt to express their preference.They had to have at least one Linden dollar.We also produced physical equivalents of thesevirtual products, and conducted a market test withthem, by approaching members of the academic com-munity that had expressed their preferences in the SLstore. They were presented by the manufacturer withthe physical t-shirts equivalent to the virtual ones ondisplay, held them in their hands and if they sodesired they bought them with their own money (at adiscount price). As mentioned previously, they wereclearly told that the discount price was not solely for the t-shirt version they selected online: they could buyany of the presented t-shirts at the same price. In thisway, we were able to analyse the choices made by thesame individuals over the two media: in SL and physically.That is, we expected to collect information about  potential buyer 
s preferences about speci
c products,not only within the virtual platform, but also in the presence of the physical product. For this, we con-ducted two tests: a
virtual test 
, to collect partici- pants
 buying preferences
on the virtual version of the product; and a
real-life test 
, to collect the partic-ipants buying preferences on the physical version of the product. We wondered whether the resulting data-sets would be relatively coherent; if so, it would be agood indicator that companies could use virtual ver-sions of t-shirts as a
rst approach to analysing their feasibility as physical products
– 
a more readily usableand cost-effective way to make operational marketingdecisions.This idea has been echoed in various media outlets(e.g. by prototyping new products in a virtual world
– 
including engineered products even before they arecreated, a
rm can save time and money and garner richer and more accurate feedback 
– 
Thilmany, 2008), but we have so far not seen hard data in support of it.We believe our efforts may help understand whether avirtual world such as SL can be seen as valid com-mercial opinion indicator, not only regarding salesvolume, but also on the reliability level a virtual product preference vis-à-vis its physical version.
2
J. Varajão and L. Morgado
 
In the section
Background
, we present the back-ground, introducing SL potential as an entrepreneurshiptool. The research method is discussed in the
Method
section. In the section
Prototype and experiment 
, thecreated prototype and the conducted experiment are presented. Then, in the section
Results and discus-sion
, we discuss the obtained results. Finally, in thesection
Conclusion and further wor
, some
nalremarks are made and paths for further work are sug-gested.
Background
SL is a well-known virtual world, whose use hasgrown considerably between 2006 and 2009, not onlyin number of users, but also in capabilities and fea-tures for development of customized solutions (Gorini,Gaggioli, Vigna, & Riva, 2008), and has since platea-ued at about 580,000 regular monthly users, with anaverage 50,000 users being simultaneously online inSL (Nino, 2011). Commercial activity is already well present in SL, and many companies already use it not only as a sales branch, but also as a place where com-mercial information can be gathered (Thilmany, 2008).It can be de
ned not only as a virtual world tovisit, but as a virtual platform, since its contents arecreated by and for its users, using a variety of freetools for graphical modeling and texturing, animationde
nition and even programming scripts for interac-tions and interfacing with external information sys-tems (e.g. Valério et al., 2009). Almost every aspect of real life that is possible to emulate virtually, has been developed in this platform by its users. Even thesocial behaviour within this platform has beenreported as very close to the real world:
Second Life may be an online Utopia, but its social politics look awfully familiar. (Bans, 2008)Second Life is one of the most popular online meta-verses (a fancy term for virtual worlds). Visitors tothe site create avatars
– 
virtual
 people
– 
to represent themselves and their computer screen becomes a win-dow to a virtual world. (Benetton, 2007)
. . .
think of it like a cross between a video game anda virtual reality simulation of the real world. Throughtheir avatars, people can journey through online envi-ronments that resemble
ctitious lands as well asactual places, with roads, buildings, islands and soforth. But Second Life isn
t only an interesting placeto visi
– 
it offers potentially interesting businessopportunities as well. (Benetton, 2007)
SL has been used in the recent past as a tool for entrepreneurship (Stewart, 2007), and its economic
gures indicate USD 1,500,000 spent in user-to-user transactions yearly (Nino, 2011). Large companiesestablished their presence within SL (Scott, 2007)often made not with instant pro
t in mind, but withthe intention to improve their brand image. Only afew established companies actually employ SL as asales channel, with individuals representing the major-ity of entrepreneurial activity in this platform.A virtual product is not a mere representation or token of a physical item; it has value in itself, but typ-ically people are wary to pay relatively high prices for something that they cannot really
own
.
Smart mar-keters will imagine their brands not as they are in thereal world, but as they
t within this free-form playspace
(Au, 2008). One must wonder, however, if thisreluctance will not diminish as virtual ownership of  products, even outside virtual worlds, increases(e-books and music
les subscription models whereonly a few of the purchased items are stored locally,for instance).
Companies like American Apparel and Reebok havea positive corporate presence with boutiques wherethey can not only make a little money but also pro-mote the brands to Second Life residents who might then be more inclined to be consumers of 
ine too.Other corporations doing interesting things in SecondLife include: Starwood Hotels
loft-style hotel bar where you can hang out; Sun Microsystems presenta-tion space where they work with their gaming devel-opers; TextlOO, a public relations
rm that conductslive press conferences for clients in Second Life; andToyota, which sells cars for your avatar to motoaround in. In my opinion, all are useful and interest-ing ways to have a corporate presence that shouldn
 be dismissed as exploitative. (Scott, 2007)
Thus, SL proves itself useful as a communicationchannel, where the relation between the potential cli-ent and the brand can bene
t. There is also prototyp-ing potential within SL, and this could be used togarner operational information relative to products andmarketing tests of product prototypes.
Method
In order to analyse the differences and similarities in buyers
preferences between the virtual and the physicalworld, our 
rst step was to de
ne which product to test.Such a product should be feasible to produce in bothvirtual and physical versions, both usable autono-mously, within a reasonable budget, and both versionsshould be recognizable as similar by potential buyers.We opted to develop t-shirts as ou
rst test  product. The choice for this type of product was acombination of two circumstances: they are a product with a low cost of physical manufacture (particularlygiven our academy
s geographical proximity to one of 
The Journal of The Textile Institute
3

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->