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Study shows virtual demonstrations lead consumers to make real purchases


Seeing really is believing

"Virtual product demonstrations that allow individuals to interact with merchandise create more vivid mental images of the consumer using the products, thereby increasing the likelihood they’ll purchase the item," said Ann Schlosser, UW Business School assistant professor of marketing.

"We’ve found that the more easily individuals can envision themselves using a product, the more likely they are to buy it."

Schlosser studied how consumers’ buying intentions are influenced and affected by their participation in virtual-reality product demonstrations. She found that when users could manipulate products in the virtual world, their likelihood of making a purchase was much higher than when they received this information in a read-only, video or storyboard format.

In her study, participants were asked to spend time at a major manufacturer’s Web site to learn about digital cameras. For those visiting the site with an interactive product demonstration, they could test camera features by pressing the buttons on the camera with their mouse, allowing them to take pictures, preview them, and either save or delete them. According to Schlosser, this simulated virtual interactive product experience increased consumers’ purchase intentions considerably over traditional, non-interactive advertising.

The primary reasons people use the Internet, said Schlosser, are to find useful information and to browse for entertainment. Such motivations have been characterized as ’searching’ versus ’browsing.’ The goal of the research was to examine how individuals process information presented through virtual interactions with a product (object interactivity), and the impact that this has on their buying intentions if they are looking for an aesthetic experience (browsers) or are seeking specific information (searchers).

Schlosser examined how object interactivity affects consumers’ buying intentions even when the user’s goal is merely to browse or search for product information.

Across all experiments performed, object interactivity led to higher buying intentions than when the same information was delivered passively. This finding occurred regardless of whether subjects were searching or merely browsing, or whether they found the site aesthetically appealing.

"Although browsers had more favorable product attitudes after visiting the object-interactive site than searchers did, individuals’ goals for visiting the Web site had no effect on their purchase intentions. After visiting the object-interactive Web site, both browsers and searchers reported that they could clearly envision themselves using the product, which was a significant driver in determining if they intended to buy the product."

Schlosser’s study, "Experiencing Products in the Virtual World: The Role of Goal and Imagery in Influencing Attitudes Versus Purchase Intentions," will be published in the September issue of Journal of Consumer Research.

For more information, contact Schlosser at (206) 685-7497 or

Nancy Gardner | EurekAlert!
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