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The virtual supermarket of Shopper360

Conducting market research in a real-life supermarket is full of pitfalls. It’s expensive for the supplier commissioning the research, disruptive for the supermarket, and the environment is prone to uncontrollable variables which make any results less than reliable. What if there was a digital equivalent?

As part of a series of ‘Housewarming Week’ events put on earlier this month by IBM to celebrate the opening of its new offices in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, Lumaten’s Paul Fitzgerald and Troy Sugrue led a demonstration of a platform aimed at solving the market research problem.

“What shoppers tell you is different from what they do,” says Sugrue.

Shopper360 is a virtual reality supermarket developed by Rush Digital and Lumaten. Viewed through a virtual-reality headset, the platform looks just like a supermarket. Users can interact with it in the way they would a real supermarket – walking around and looking at product, opening chiller doors, even selecting items and putting them in a trolley.

Unlike a real supermarket, however, everything the user does while shopping is captured and turned into a data point. How long the shopper looks at items; whether they pick up and hold an item; and whether this interaction converts into a sale is all measured.

“We basically measure every interaction when our shoppers are in the virtual environment,” Fitzgerald says.

This data is fed into the IBM Watson supercomputer, which processes it into useful analytics. Watson has many commercial applications, and is expected to reach 1 billion users this year across 25 industries and 45 countries.

“It picks out the insights and hands it back to the researcher,” Sugrue says.

A recent study carried out for Australian ice cream supplier Bulla looked at multipack iceblocks. Three hundred shoppers were put through the Shopper360 platform, which tracked every aspect of their shopper journey.

“We can test the future and predict future activity because we can build the future,” says Sugrue.

He says Shopper360 not only eliminates inconveniences attached to real-life market research in supermarkets, but offers an additional level of flexibility as researchers can test “crazy” scenarios as well as practical ones. Out-of-season products are fine to test.

“We’ll let you do anything because you own the environment.”

The demonstration environment was loosely modeled on Countdown’s Ponsonby branch. The Shopper 360 product isn’t limited to groceries – Fitzgerald says it has a fully customizable library of assets.

Fitzgerald says for Bulla, Shopper360 developed an optimal range of products which took it from a 9 percent volume share to 14 percent.

This story first appeared atThe Register.