How virtual reality (VR) influences consumer intentions
Virtual reality can influence consumer behavior in powerful ways; however, less is known about the how and why.
Through which mental processes do VR advertising and VR presentations influence consumers intentions and behavior? We tested this in a tourism context, a context in which VR often is used to tempt people to travel to specific destinations.
One possibility is that VR has stronger impact on mental imagery than traditional marketing channels, creating vivid simulations of what it would be like to visit destinations. This process might create hedonic expectations of future happiness, which in turn should increase the willingness to actually seek out the destination in real life. The results from a laboratory experiment provided support to this hypothesis. Participants were randomly assigned to view a nature destination either in traditional still images or virtual reality, and then reported their initial responses before making an actual consumer choice. VR exposure led to higher levels of mental imagery and happiness predictions, which in turn was associated with stronger travel intentions and purchasing decisions. Hence, VR influences real travel decisions, through boosting image associations and happiness predictions (how nice it will feel to actually be there)
However, VR effects on consumer choice were moderated by previous experience with the destination. People who already were familiar the destinations had no real effect of VR advertising and should rather be approached by other means of communication.