Multi-User Virtual Reality Technology as Means to Engage Global Consumers: An Abstract
The virtual reality topic spiked a lot of attention in different fields and research areas, and marketing is no different. Amongst marketing practitioners, scholars and their consumers, the technology has gained and maintained momentum over the past few years. This research advocates for the implementation of multi-user virtual reality to reach and engage global customers. Various researchers (e.g. Greenberg 2010) have pointed out that online social platforms seem to be especially relevant for the encouragement of consumer (brand) engagement. In line with Kaplan and Haenlein (2009), this research adopts the stance that virtual reality can be seen as this next generation of online social platforms and arguably will take consumer (brand) engagement to the next level. Virtual characters are a key element of all virtual environments, and it can be argued that with the rise and global acceptance of chatbots, the role of a brand’s physical presence (e.g. Jin and Bolebruch 2009), as propagated by brand representatives (i.e. embodied brand characters), becomes increasingly important. This preliminary study therefore explores the expectations virtual reality users have regarding brand presence—focussing specifically on (interaction patterns with) embodied brand representatives in virtual reality.
This research consists of two data collection phases. In the first part of the study, focus group data was collected from a purposeful sample of English-speaking virtual reality users (n = 27). Since the focus of the research is geared towards fully immersive virtual reality, only people who experienced virtual reality making use of head-mounted displays (i.e. virtual reality goggles) were recruited. A semi-structured, open-ended interview framework was implemented within the focus group interviews. Results from the focus group data will be presented. The next research phase will include analysis of online virtual reality user communication data (i.e. public in-world user-generated content). Guided by input from the focus groups, a virtual reality domain will be designed in “high fidelity”, a multi-user virtual reality world that allows for comments addressing brand-related virtual reality content and brand presence (specifically geared towards embodied brand advocates). The focus group and virtual reality log dataset will be analysed separately.
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