VR in applied research [part 2]: When our imagination doesn’t reach far enough – Virtual reality as a participatory method to increase the acceptance of sustainable mobility

It is expected of cities to provide an attractive, but also competitive place to work and live, while managing the needs of all transportation users and meeting the increasing demands of climate, environmental and health protection all at the same time. Not meeting these demands often simultaneously relates to a reduction in the inhabitants’ quality of life. An important component for a high standard of living in cities is mobility, which is one aspect of our institution’s research project, iCity, aimed at developing the intelligent city of the future (read more here about this project).

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VR in applied research [part 1]: An empirical investigation of using virtual reality for researching the acceptance of smart stores

Imagine you are at the grocery store, but instead of waiting at the cashier to pay, an artificial intelligence (AI) registered the products you took and automatically bills them to your account right after you leave the store. For many years, the shopping process in a supermarket was very similar: customers would take products from shelves, then go to checkout, put the goods on a belt which were scanned by a cashier, and pay. Usually, this process is often associated with waiting times, depending on how busy the store is. With the introduction of self-checkouts, this process has already been optimized through technology. In 2016, Amazon opened the first smart store in Seattle. A smart store completely eliminates the payment process at a cash register (Amazon, 2022). Cameras, sensors and an AI automatically detect which products the customer took from the shelf. The products are paid for using the stored payment data when the customer leaves the store. This smart store concept rather describes the “Grab & Go” technology which includes a walk-in option for customers. While there are a multitude of different concepts used in smart stores, this research focused on said concept as well as an ”Automated Box” concept which refers to a smart store with a fully automated high-bay warehouse. Customers do not select the products inside this particular smart store, but choose their desired products via an app either before or upon their arrival.

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VR in the customer journey [part 2]: How does virtual reality effect the fashion shopping experience?

Virtual reality (VR), which is considered a megatrend (Rutkowski, 2022), aids in blurring the line between actual reality and the virtual world. Specifically, a study from 2020 concluded that 46% of Germans are interested in using VR technologies when shopping online (Bahr, 2020). Hence, utilizing VR in the fashion industry could provide additional opportunities for customers and retailers. It is of particularly great importance for fashion retailers to find a suitable way of linking digitalization and in-person shopping. Indeed, sales forecasts for in-person store shopping are decreasing (KPMG, 2021). The point-of-purchase (e.g., physical store or online store) plays a significant role in the customer journey (Redler, 2018) as is greatly impacts the purchase decision.

Research goal

Using the example of a fashion store, Lydia Gaus aimed at investigating the influence of VR technologies on the participants‘ general interest in the store, interest in visiting the store, and intended purchase behavior compared to two-dimensional stimuli. Additionally, the study tried to find explanatory aspects for the advantages or disadvantages as well as possible requirements for including VR into the shopping journey of cross-channel shoppers.

Research overview

Gaus used a mixed methods approach for her research, including two groups, one receiving images on their personal devices, e.g., smartphones, and one looking at 360° images on VR glasses. The images displayed three rooms of a clothing store without customers, whereby the 360° view was utilized in the form of seperate shots for the 2-D group so that the images looked like usual photographs. Participants were then presented a questionnaire and a subsample was chosen to participate in subsequent interviews. In total, 68 participants (with half for each group), who were mainly students (52%), representing 50% female and male respectively as well as an age range of 18 to 61 years (mean=31.5, SD=13.9), took part in the first part of the study. 10 of these respondents subsequently participated in an interview.

Main findings

  • Participants who received the VR input had a significantly higher general interest in the store, interest in visiting the store and purchase intention than the group receiving 2-D stimuli.
  • The VR group remembered significantly more objects from the store than the picture group.
  • The factor stimuli significantly predicts the experienceability (sense of presence) which predicts the purchase intention as well as interest in and intention to visit the store. For the VR group, experienceability was higher, which in turn was positively related to the purchase intention.
  • Throughout the interviews, multiple advantages of VR shopping were repeatedly mentioned, namely the realistic presentation of the store, a comfortable atmosphere as well as resulting positive emotions such as fun, curiosity, and entertainment/ surprising.
  • Optimization potentials related to missing music in the store, missing shopping experience (i.e. interaction with staff or other customers), little comfort in wearing the glasses as well as technical limitations related to the virtual scenario, and no option to “move” or navigate through the store.


Using VR technology in the customer journey can offer additional opportunities for retailers, as it increases the purchase intention and general interest in the store as well as visiting intention for the customers, compared to 2-D stimuli. Additionally, the consumers’ ability to remember the store was better with VR than with pictures. Hence, offering VR images can be a useful marketing measure for clothing retailers, as it offers the linkage between online and in-store shopping. This could also spark interest in cross-channel shoppers to visit physical stores. However, VR glasses are still not popular in private homes. Furthermore, the perceived usefulness of VR shopping is limited due to the missing interaction with other people and the physical clothes. Hence, providers should further develop the technical options, such as navigating through the store, updating the VR-data with current product availability, and virtual trying on of the clothes as well as the interaction with other customers (as in the metaverse).

After covering VR as a potential addition to the customer journey, we will dive into VR as a new tool for user research in the next two posts, beginning with a study which explored the acceptance of smart stores via VR. Here, VR was used in order to more vividly display the new store concept.


Bahr, I. (2020). Studie: Virtual Reality im Online-Shopping – 17 % kaufen online mit VR ein, GetApp. Retrieved from: https://www.getapp.de/blog/1748/studie-virtual-reality-im-online-shopping

KPMG. (2021). Front Row: Sehen, was morgen Mode ist. Studie Fashion 2030. Köln. Retrieved from: https://home.kpmg/de/de/home/themen/2021/01/studie-fashion-2030-trend-guide-fuer-die-zukunft-der-mode-branche-in-deutschland.html

Redler, J. (2018). Die Store Brand. Einkaufsstätten als Marken verstehen, aufbauen und steuern. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-09709-7

Rutkowski, M. (2022). Metaverse – wie Unternehmen den Megatrend nutzen können. Handelsblatt. Retrieved from: https://www.handelsblatt.com/adv/soklingtwirtschaft/reale-und-virtuellewirklichkeit-metaverse-wie-unternehmen-den-megatrend-nutzen-koennen/28349842.html

VR in the customer journey [part 1]: Increasing accommodation sales by limiting risk and providing an escape into virtual reality tourism

We will kick off a new blog series about virtual reality (VR) with two posts about VR as a potential tool along the customer journey. Additionally, we will publish two posts regarding studies, which examined VR as a tool in user research, which we have already started to report on in this post.

The concept of “try before you buy” is widely popular to reduce uncertainties for consumers before the purchase of a product and to provide support in the purchase decision. When buying goods in real-life stores, customers are able to actually touch and test the products which aids them in evaluating the product quality before buying. This sales concept can be implemented in many online stores as well, as customers are given a specified test period without having to pay for the product immediately (Allen, 2016; Avampato, 2018). However, applying this sales approach to the tourism industry is practically impossible due to the immateriality of the product. In fact, customers have to make a decision based on the available information, provided on the internet, for instance. Yet, they only find out upon arrival at the destination whether the booked service actually meets their expectations (Bruhn & Hadwich, 2004; Hartmann, 2018). Hence, from the consumer’s perspective, this results in a perceived purchase risk, as booking a vacation trip is usually associated with a certain degree of uncertainty (Bär, 2006; Syrek et al., 2017). Virtual reality (VR) can aid consumers during the decision process and minimizes this purchase risk as it presents the destination in a virtual world and gives the customer an active role to discover it.

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Life in a hobby lab: A qualitative user study on smart home acceptance in shared households

While many of our acceptance research studies focus on the quantitative evaluation of (potential) technology acceptance factors, this blog entry describes a qualitative approach to smart home acceptance research. In addition, it integrates the views of two target groups by trying to understand the mutual acceptance of members in a household.

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How do online advertisements become viral? – An investigation of emotional advertising

Current market conditions and today’s information overload require advertisers to drastically change their strategies. In fact, informative advertising is increasingly losing its effectiveness. An alternative approach is emotional marketing (O’Shaughnessy & O’Shaughnessy, 2002), which aims at influencing consumers’ buying decisions by advertising on an emotional level. Emotions have the ability to impact thoughts, behaviours, and other fundamental processes (Levenson, 2011). In addition to the arousing effect, emotions also have other positive effects, such as improved reception of the advertising message or generally an increase in consumers’ advertising acceptance. Viral marketing takes this advertising approach one step further, as it relates to consumers voluntarily forwarding advertisements on social media. This post summarizes two studies which explored the effect of emotions on the likability and ultimately virality of online advertisements.

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Why are influencers perceived as credible by social media users?

In one of our earlier blog posts, we have reported on the power of digital recommendations in the form of electronic word-of-mouth product reviews. So we know that recommendations of other users in form of product reviews are relevant for consumers when making purchase decisions. In addition to that, social media channels have become an indispensable part of everyday life and are, first of all, a valuable communication tool. In fact, social networks accumulate approximately 4.2 billion active users worldwide (DataReportal, 2021). Even more important for consumer research is, that these networks are also increasingly used as a source of information for purchase decisions, as consumers believe the recommendations of other users more than advertising (Tokarski, Schellinger & Berchtold, 2017). A study (Bundesverband für Digitale Wirtschaft e.V., 2019) found, that one in five social media users has already been inspired to buy a product by an influencer, meaning opinion leaders who help companies raise awareness about their products or services. Hence, companies are increasingly integrating influencers into their marketing strategies to ultimately influence social media users. However, the challenge for companies is to select credible influencers from the high number of potential cooperation partners, as credibility is an essential aspect for the influencers’ persuasive power.

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User acceptance of automobile subscriptions and flat rate models

Subscription or flat rate models are flexible alternatives which have been used for many years now, especially in relation to large data bases which are now available, for instance, to Netflix or Spotify customers. Hence, it is worth to explore more flexible usage models, not only in the media (e.g., streaming or music), but in the automotive industry as well. Indeed, especially young drivers or people living in the city, seem to prefer having a car ready to use for a specific time period when needed instead of owning the vehicle. Thus, compared to typical options drivers have, i.e. buying or leasing a vehicle, subscription or flat rate models offer drivers a way to book a vehicle in a flexible way which can be canceled at any point.

Car Flatrate

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User acceptance of autonomous delivery robots in different application contexts

Recently, autonomous robots have been utilized increasingly for the delivery of food and packages. Even though these electrically powered vehicles have been used in the U.S. since 2018, pilot projects are just now becoming more popular in Germany. Due to their advantages for customers and society as a whole, delivery robots could become an important aspect of the scenery in future cities. More specifically, deliveries carried out by autonomous robots are environmentally friendlier and an efficient answer to the growing number of online deliveries. Furthermore, customers expect high flexibility as well as fast, but less-costly deliveries – demands which can be met by autonomous robots. However, user acceptance is essential for the successful implementation of this innovation. So far, user acceptance research surrounding autonomous delivery robots is limited and there is little empirical literature considering different application scenarios of the technology. Thus, two students of our business psychology program investigated factors influencing the customers’ acceptance of autonomous robots for last mile transportation of goods with a focus on current as well as potential future application scenarios.

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How do humans perceive art created by Artificial Intelligence?

“Artificial intelligence” (AI) is ubiquitous in our everyday lives these days. While the technology is incorporated not only into smartphones, translators, voice assistants and self-driving cars, it has now also pathed its way into the art world. For instance, AI is able to recreate paintings of well-established artists (Iansiti & Lakhani, 2020), but can generate original art styles (Schwab, 2017), songs (Vincent, 2016), or poems as well (Gibbs, 2016). It is usually impossible for people to distinguish between human-made and AI-created art, hence, they often place high artistic (Elgammal et al., 2017) as well as monetary value on AI artwork (BBC, 2018). A recent study titled “Defending humankind: Anthropocentric bias in the appreciation of AI art” published in Computers in Human Behavior investigated how people react to art created by AI systems and labeled as such, compared to artwork labeled as human-made.

Click here to access the original publication.

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