Nielsen presents virtual tools for shopper research

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Bringing gaming technology to shopper research, Nielsen has debuted a suite of solutions that leverages virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to help brands and retailers test in-store shopping behaviors, virtual planograms and more.

The suite includes three products: Nielsen SmartStore, Nielsen SmartShelf and Nielsen SmartShopper. The newest of the three technologies is Nielsen SmartShopper, available in July, and it enables manufacturers and retailers to identify in-store shopper behaviors via augmented reality over the smartphone. 

A look inside the Nielsen SmartStore virtual tool

The shopper marketing tool allows for product images, say new store brand packaging, in-store marketing artwork and seasonal or special event concepts to be tested by shoppers in-store using interactive gaming technology. 

“With the pace of unprecedented change occurring within today’s shopping landscape, it is imperative for companies to stay ahead of consumers and anticipate their needs,” said Susan Dunn, president, U.S. Sales, Nielsen. “Nielsen’s virtual suite of SmartStore solutions capitalizes on new technology to dramatically increase the speed and reduce the costs of testing new concepts for brands, allowing them to get real, personal consumer feedback at scale, in a safe environment. Understanding shoppers is more important than ever, and this latest launch represents the next step in our commitment to shaping a smarter market for our clients.” 

Also in the suite is Nielsen SmartStore, which enables product manufacturers and retailers to create and test customized, in-store shopping simulations inside a dynamic, 3-D, 360-degree virtual store environment. For example, a retailer could test how well a store brand product does in this environment among shoppers in the virtual technology gear, evaluating different packaging options, planograms or entire store layouts and designs. 

A shopper being tested under the SmartStore technology would wear a headset and be armed with a 360-degree controller. The viewer would see realistic graphics, have access to directional audio and haptic feedback to present a realistic, virtual shopping world. While engaged, Nielsen tracks the shopper’s eye movements in the customized world, reading head, eye and foot movements, and provides a 3-D heat map of the store, shelf or aisle.

A unique playback function allows users of the tool to review the in-store shopper journey and tag possible problem moments for review, converting observations into actionable insights. Within the playback function, researchers can also choose to ask test shoppers qualifying questions as to why they chose or reacted in a certain manner at the shelf, giving retailers and manufacturers new insights into elements such as merchandising, pack ingredients or marketing and promotional activities.

A look at the virtual shopping world inside the Nielsen SmartShelf tool

Another new tool is the Nielsen SmartShelf, which is powered by InContext Solutions, a leader in 3-D virtual simulation software for retail environments. The tool also leverages Nielsen’s CPG data, insights and analytics. SmartShelf is like SmartStore in that retailers and manufacturers can test how a product does on a virtual shelf, but shoppers don’t need to be tested in a physical location with a headset on. Rather, they can test via a virtual online environment.

COVID-19 has caused brands and retailers to get innovative in how they test outside physical locations and it has dramatically altered shopping behaviors. Nielsen said the virtual tools have a heightened purpose in this “new normal.” For a more visual look, Nielsen has posted videos of how the technologies work.