Shelf tests are a valuable stage of product testing for understanding consumer behaviour and preferences. These tests involve placing a new product alongside similar competitor products and observing how consumers interact with and purchase the product.
A key benefit of shelf tests is that they can help companies identify potential issues with a product before it is launched to the market. For example, if a new product is not selling well in a shelf test, it may indicate that there are problems with the product’s design, packaging, or pricing. By identifying these issues early on, companies can make changes to the product before it is released to the market, potentially saving time and resources in the long run.
Prior to signing off product changes, it’s often unfeasible to conduct tests in a live store environment but in this digital world there are often several alternative solutions for clients to consider; physical builds, VR or AR.
Digital vs. Physical Shelf Tests
There are several key differences between running a shelf test in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), and building a physical shelf:
- Immersiveness: A VR or AR shelf test using online software can provide a more immersive experience for participants, as they are fully immersed in a virtual environment. On the other hand, a physical shelf test can provide a more realistic representation of how products will be displayed in retail environments.
- Physical Interaction: A physical shelf test enables shoppers to interact with the physical product on a 1:1 scale. For certain categories olfactory factors are an important element of the purchase decision, which currently cannot be realized in a digital environment
- Cost: The scale & scope of the project, the value of the products within the category, and the feasibility of using the VR & AR digital assets for future research studies should be considered when deciding if a physical or digital route will be the most cost effective. Developing a digital asset library takes time & needs maintaining to ensure products, including competitor products, are current. Physical Shelf builds require purchasing products from a store on an ad-hoc basis.
- Flexibility: Virtual shelf test using software allow for more flexibility in terms of changing the layout, lighting, and other factors in the virtual environment. On the other hand, a physical shelf test may be more difficult to change or reconfigure.
- Data collection: A VR or AR shelf test using online software can enable the collection of more detailed data, such as product interactions and visual attention. On the other hand, data collection from a physical shelf test would require additional eye tracking equipment to gather iterative data.
- Limited Accessibility: Running a shelf test in VR or AR can have limited accessibility due to barriers such as technological capabilities or health issues, which can affect the sample representation. On the other hand, a physical shelf test can encounter logistical challenges, but these can be easily overcome.
- Technical limitations: AR & VR technology is still developing, and there may be limitations in terms of the types of products or environments that can be effectively tested.
- Complex setup: Setting up a VR & AR test environment can be complex and may require specialized expertise.
Companies currently undergoing product changes to drive cost efficiencies & increase sustainability should not underestimate the value of running shelf tests. The team at Launchpad Research have a wealth of experience building, recruiting, executing & analyzing shelf test studies in physical & digital environments so please contact us.