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.