Are Virtual Store Studies Any Good? Apparently Yes

Can you actually predict shoppers’ behaviors by having them pretend to shop while sitting in front of their computer?

Apparently you can. Decision Insight from Kansas City claims a 90% correlation of their virtual research results with actual store sales data from IRI.

What have they tested? Shelf sets, packaging, SKU mix, promotions andamp; displays, and even pricing. Grocery Headquarters has a Heinz ketchup case study about shelf sets; reducing the SKU count by 25% grew category sales–good for both Heinz and the retailer. Another example about Kellogg’s Smart Start cereal packaging is at AFN.

These artificial, desk-bound, not-in-shopping-mindset virtual studies seem to be highly predictive of real-world results. Virtual store research might not just be good enough: it might be good.