Kellogg pilots virtual reality merchandising solution

Source: Accenture Technology
Mar 28, 2019

Rose Anthony

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the bi-monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.

The Kellogg Co. last November partnered to pilot a solution that embeds eye-tracking technology in a mobile virtual reality (VR) headset to reinvent how brands and retailers gather critical consumer data at the store level.

Accenture and technology provider Qualcomm collaborated on the effort.

Conducted with the launch of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Bites product, the VR solution demonstrated that optimal placement for the new product was on lower shelves rather than on higher shelves, which conventional testing indicated was where consumers expected to find new products. The result was an 18 percent increase in brand sales during testing.

In a statement, Raffaella Camera, global head, innovation & market strategy, Accenture Extended Reality, said the mobile VR eye-tracking solution provided far deeper behavioral data than standard testing, which typically relies on online surveys and in-home user tests. She said, “It allows significant new insights to be captured while consumers shop by monitoring where and how they evaluate all products across an entire shelf or aisle. Ultimately, this enables product placement decisions to be made that can positively impact total brand sales, versus only single product sales.”

Among the potential benefits from the technology:

  • Expanding testing reach to diverse locations: Geographically dispersed consumers can use mobile VR headsets for product testing in their homes, at stores, during product roadshows or at any large consumer gatherings.

  • Improving experience in branded environments: Shoppers can walk through realistic and branded virtual store models, look at shelves at their discretion, pick up and examine products and place selections directly into their carts.
  • Increasing the dataset for analytics: Insights into in-store behavior insights — such as which products attract attention, where consumers look first or gaze longest and what helps to trigger buying decisions —- can be gathered without interrupting the shopping experience.
  • Decreasing costs while improving flexibility: A VR environment enables easy modifications to store and shelf layouts, inventory and prices.

A spokesperson for Kellogg’s told CPGmatters, “As untethered virtual reality headset devices gain consumer acceptance and widespread household ownership, it would enable using this methodology at a quantitative scale.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the benefits of combining VR with eye-tracking to inform in-store merchandising? Do you see any limits to the technology or major barriers to greater adoption by brands and retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"VR with eye tracking has an important contribution to make. Its ultimate value and ROI will be determined on how effectively it's applied."
"VR takes the research cost reduction of simulation to the next level."
"The use of VR here is cool but I’m not sure I buy the “products sell better on lower shelves” theory offered in the video."

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Kellogg pilots virtual reality merchandising solution"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

We’ve been doing this since 1993, so we’ve been informing clients, including Kellogg, for some time. The use of eye-tracking with VR is often superfluous – we’ve often found that if you measure whether the shopper picks up the product or not is a better predictor of whether they buy it and that eye-tracking data adds little to the data. Doesn’t mean eye-tracking isn’t useful, but in a VR environment you pay a lot for very little gain. And the eye-tracking data was not what was used to define the marketing action, it was the 18 percent sales increase.

As an aside, nobody has yet shown a relationship between eye tracking and product sales except for the obvious fact that if you don’t see it you don’t buy it.

Art Suriano
This technology has some value, but I see it with more short-term benefits rather than long-term. Finding the best place for an item on a shelf helps attract attention. However, once the customer finds the product, the item still needs to be something the consumer will not buy once but continue to buy because they like the product. Technology has tremendous benefits in helping businesses succeed; however it is expensive, and at times it seems that sticking with the basics still has more value. Make a product that is worth purchasing, get customers talking about it because they like it, advertise wisely and use real-life testimonies. When you have those things working for you and you’re adding technology you can move the needle in your favor. When companies are thinking technology will help them find ways to sell their products after they’ve cut corners and reduced the quality, they may have success in the short term. However, once the customer figures out they’re not getting the value they want, all the technology in the world… Read more »
Ben Ball

VR takes the research cost reduction of simulation to the next level. CPG brands have been looking for cost effective replication of expensive in-store research methodologies that also face increasing retailer resistance due to disruption in the store. Virtual “labs” were the interim solution of choice. But VR is a natural evolution that drives costs a step-function lower due to portability.

Joan Treistman
Having introduced eye tracking to the marketing research community in the ’70s and continuing to work with it as technology improved, I have many opinions about what this article describes. I’ll just relate a few. It makes sense to me that marketers want to find improved methods for predicting success at the store shelf. Eye tracking has always been an effective tool for anticipating real world results for packaging, point of sale displays, signage and the like. I’m disappointed that the article suggested that standard tests are limited to online surveys and in-home user tests. Online surveys on a computer screen are limited by size alone to simulate the in-store setting for shelf impact. And in-home user tests are just that, in-home user tests, not related to in-store dynamics. Setting up packages in actual stores and using eye tracking glasses to document consumer engagement and purchase decisions is closer to that moment of truth. Creating a store environment in an interviewing facility is next best. Virtual reality offers a new and exciting context for measuring… Read more »
Georganne Bender

The use of VR here is cool but I’m not sure I buy the “products sell better on lower shelves” theory offered in the video.

In the first example when the Pop Tarts Bites were signed – the only sign on the display – and merchandised on a shelf near the top of the fixture, the user’s eyes looked at the sign first before scanning the display. In the second example where the Pop Tarts Bites were signed – again, the only sign on the display – and placed on a lower shelf, the user also looked at the sign first before his eyes travelled upwards and read the display top to bottom. I would argue that the signs caused the shopper to look at each spot first, not the product placement.

Fredrik Carlegren

I’m highly skeptical to draw major conclusions based on any test or observation that is so drastically unique from the real-world shopping experience. Let’s think bigger and explore how multiple technologies working in synchronicity can deliver use cases that include better merchandising but also much more. Let’s focus on converting real-world in-store shopping behavior into data-driven insights.

John McIndoe

VR and eye-tracking are just one of the arsenal of new technologies available to help brands and retailers better understand shopper behavior. That said, I believe VR and eye-tracking are better indicators of top-of-funnel introduction and awareness, versus bottom-of-the funnel closing a sale. When viewed in that content, marketers should continue to explore it further.

Oliver Guy
Oliver Guy
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
3 years 9 months ago

This is awesome. A true practical application of this technology.

However we have to remember that when you try to measure something, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle suggest that you cannot measure it without impacting the result. In this case, placing a headset on someone’s head you automatically tell them (subconsciously) that you are monitoring what they look at — which might influence their behaviour.

A great first step — this will become more interesting when you are able to track this from the shelf out, using cameras to track where customers look. The trick then is to make it actionable — responding in real-time and ensuring the insights can be used across the business to drive decision making around price, promotion and other factors.

"VR with eye tracking has an important contribution to make. Its ultimate value and ROI will be determined on how effectively it's applied."
"VR takes the research cost reduction of simulation to the next level."
"The use of VR here is cool but I’m not sure I buy the “products sell better on lower shelves” theory offered in the video."

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