Integration of virtual reality in established testing methods

Dirk Ziems

After the “Wow-effect”

Plunge into unfamiliar worlds with Virtual Reality, always provides the “Wow-effect”. How to nevertheless generate valid Insights with that fascinating technology is known by Dirk Ziems and Thomas Ebenfeld.

It's not surprising that the whole market research industry reacted practically unanimous euphoric to the possibility of using Virtual Reality (VR; computer-generated reality) or Augmented Reality (AR; computer extended reality) to create researches in a more realistic way. The idea of "controlling" a consumer during his walk through a computer-generated shop from the first to the very last moment appeared very attractive. Concept m uses that fascinating possibility of technology to generate Insights for their customers. Our evaluation: VR and AR, by and large, have been proved - as long as it is possible to avoid the pitfalls of improvement.

The pitfalls of VR-technology

Because the problem of Virtual Reality is, that the screen which the test person sees, creates a virtual world nearly identical to the real world, that typical experiences like fear of falling down really appear - and nevertheless that screen is well-known as an object of that world. The plunge into the virtual reality which means the perception of being physically in a not-physical world is a challenge for research tests. Experiences with VR-tests show, that this procedure can avoid less significant or misleading insights if it's not correct embedded.

Due to VR, the test persons run into an adventure situation, for what the psychoanalyst Ernst Kris coined the definition of “Underdistance”. They feel a complete involvement with the shown VR scene and go "over real" through it.

Between the realities

The test persons falling into a status of immersion, in which they are no longer able to differentiate the real and the virtual room. This results a hybrid perception of reality in which the real and virtual reality get mixed. For example: With the VR-simulation of a new car cockpit, the viewer sees and feels himself like really sitting inside the cockpit. At the same time, they know, they are wearing VR-glasses and not really sitting inside the cockpit. Experiential the test persons are captured in an adventure of irritation: the direct sensual experience contradicts the rational knowledge.


The influence of the wow factor

For market research, the problem is, that the test persons are unable to express themselves impartial and natural in how they feel specific designs and what specific design codes triggers inside them or what they mean for them. The VR experience factor always comes up. The test persons always try to ensure themselves what is real, by knocking on the dashboard or sliding around on the chair. Time and again one can observe that the test persons react with a certain speechless at the VR situation. Immersion and underdistance show: Tempting as VR may be – if the test persons are simply overwhelmed and speechless, the VR tests somehow land up in the middle of nowhere.

VR fully integrated

Nevertheless, VR test can be a huge win for the market research – namely when the test will be embedded in an appropriate form and integrated settings. For such a process integration, where VR and established test methods are complementing each other perfectly, concept m was last year nominated for the BVM innovation price. The topic of the example was packaging tests. Our innovation in research methods was based on four emotive aspects of composition design next to the psychological concept:

  • from atmospheric, holistic impression,
  • from communicating a message by storytelling,
  • from the analysis of individual communication elements and
  • from the effect in the real-life usage context.


Advantages of Virtual Reality packaging test


How VR makes sense

To analyze the atmospheric effect of the package, the test persons saw it just for a few seconds – somehow the counter concept to the complete involvement of Virtual Reality. The sense of attraction reduction: the process of perception will be stopped directly after the process starts because exactly in this stage, the important first atmospheric impression occurs.

The storytelling in design, as well as individual elements of communication was evaluated with qualitative interviews. The hypotheses about messages of impression gained as a result, were validated quantitative online. To study these emotive aspects with VR tests seems to be not expediently, as test persons counselled to underdistance and the necessary introspection cannot be given.

If products, packages and usage settings embedded in the everyday-life context can be researched, more references to the relevance of design details are the resultant. Concerning the real-life-test, in our opinion VR-tests are the ideal extension of the existing research toolkits.

To study the real 3D- effect of design, in the past it was necessary to build extensive product or design dummies. With efficiency advantages of the VR digitalization, testing more different variants in in less time is possible. The tests can be made in stationary VR test labors as well as online with a panel of consumers.

The article was published in edition 4/2018, page 34 at

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Thomas Ebenfeld
Co-Founder and Shareholder


Dirk Ziems
Co-Founder and Shareholder

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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