A large international FMCG client needed to assess changes in the goods display in the retail chains. There were many options for placing goods: by category, brand, format, etc. Within this framework, the manufacturer needed to determine the most successful option for setting the products. The manufacturer decided to conduct marketing research to select the best option. The study aimed to determine the most effective type of display and identify "cold" and "hot" areas of potential visitors' attention. It was proposed to test various variants of planograms among real buyers of these retail chains. However, to conduct such a study, it was necessary to find ways to bypass significant problems:
- The process of the shelf is aimed to tests approval in retail chains, especially huge ones, which was challenging, long, and expensive.
- The standard way of interviewing respondents (for example, discussing planogram photographs) gave distorted results. People did not feel the reality of what was happening, perceiving themselves in artificial conditions.
The task was to develop a marketing research tool capable of showing respondents various planogram options and recording their specific attention points on these planograms. The applied approach had to be convenient for working with a statistically significant number of respondents (from 80 people). It should also structure the results of viewing planograms into a specific scheme.
The suggested solution included 360 videos of different types of planograms in stores and an application to play 360 videos in a VR headset with the possibility to fix users' gaze direction while watching them. Virtual reality technologies with 360 videos allowed to achieve the maximum effect of "real presence" at the point of sale among respondents. The application uploaded data on respondents as a map with marked points of direct respondents' gaze. This approach could be used both for analyzing the "cold" and "hot" zones of each of the respondents individually and for a consolidated assessment by combining maps with the points of interest of several respondents (for example, including all respondents in a total assessment or by sub-groups - men/women, young/senior age, etc.). It was suggested to visualize the final results for "cold" and "hot" zones in the form of a heat map based on the full array of respondents' points of attention.
- The marketing research was executed promptly without any significant financial costs on the part of the research customer. The “real” shopping areas were used only for 360 video production when there were no buyers (at night). The research itself was conducted in the office of a research company rather than in the retail point. There were no changes in the working schedules or normal operation of the outlet.
- The manufacturer received a wide range of insights regarding real consumer behavior and an assessment of the product placement efficiency in the outlet, based on a survey of respondents about the products' visibility on the shelves and the attractiveness of different types of planograms. Thus, the survey data were enriched with the unconscious non-verbal reactions of the respondents and allowed them to get a more complete and objective picture.