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The Food Institute: Virtual Reality Can Provide Grocers Deeper Insights Without Breaking the Bank

Pasquel Alvaro
Alvaro Pasquel, Lead Researcher

Grocers looking for ways to stretch budgets and drive efficiency may want to consider using virtual reality (VR) as a way to empower their operations.

VR technology can help companies optimize planograms and get a better understanding of how shoppers browse their aisles — and VR pairs perfectly with more traditional data-gathering methods to provide a richer view of the store.

One important aspect of VR setups is the vast spectrum of configurations companies can use based on their needs and budget, according to Alvaro Pasquel, lead researcher at 84.51°. He laid out some less intensive VR environments available to retailers, including:

  • Video game-like setups (both third-person navigation with an avatar or first-person view) where the shopper can interact with a 3D store shelf on their computer screen or mobile phone;

  • Environments where shoppers are placed and only allowed to navigate a specific aisle;

  • Aisles with 2D (front and back) product images only;

  • An image of a 2D shelf set where a customer can see the whole aisle but can’t navigate up and down the aisle.

“All of these are trying to mimic reality in a way that allows for the greatest participation in the research, because VR headsets aren’t required while maintaining the principle of creating an environment that gets the customer in the shopping mindset by mimicking the grocery experience as much as possible,” said Pasquel.


However, grocers also should remember that while VR is mimicking the grocery experience, it’s not an exact one-to-one copy.

Pasquel noted that simulated visits are free from distractions like other shoppers or the reality of spending real money on items in their basket. This doesn’t mean the data isn’t accurate, and VR offers unique opportunities that can’t be replicated anywhere else, but users need to properly interpret their findings rather than consider them absolute.


Pasquel Alvaro
Alvaro Pasquel, Lead Researcher
As Lead Researcher of Consumer Research, Alvaro Pasquel is responsible for building and enhancing solutions such as VR Testing and 84.51° In-Queries.

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