Accenture, Qualcomm, and Kellogg team up on eye-tracking mobile VR for retailers

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Accenture, Qualcomm, and Kellogg have launched a pilot test that uses eye-tracking technology in a virtual reality headset to determine the best way to stock shelves for retailers.

The companies believe VR has a chance to transform retail merchandising by enabling companies to do market research faster, more affordably, and on a larger scale.

Raffaella Camera, a leader in Accenture’s Extended Reality group, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the VR solution includes a Qualcomm chipset and technology from Tobii, which makes eye-tracking solutions. With such VR headsets, retailers can track where a headset wearer looks when walking down virtual aisles. Camera said that puts to the test theories such as whether people look at the top of a shelf for new products when they are shopping.

Camera said the demo shows the business value of VR, as it has resulted in an 18 percent increase in brand sales during testing with Kellogg’s products.

The Accenture Extended Reality (XR) practice developed the VR merchandising solution utilizing a Qualcomm VR reference design headset, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform. The result uses embedded eye-tracking, along with mixed reality software from InContext Solutions and eye-tracking data analytics capabilities from Cognitive3D.

This immerses consumers in a full-scale, simulated store, enabling them to move through the space, shop, pick up products, and place them in carts, and it enables businesses to observe what consumers are looking at, for how long, and why. The mobile solution is designed to allow companies to extend their reach to more geographically dispersed participants and perform market research more effectively.

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The solution was tested in collaboration with Kellogg for the launch of its new Pop Tarts Bites product. The mobile VR eye-tracking technology provided far deeper behavioral data than standard testing, which typically relies on online surveys and in-home user tests, Camera said.

“We are packaging up an entire offering and are now talking to a number of companies about the results,” Camera said. “We are concentrating on solutions based on XR to [enable] solutions for different parts of the value chain for different parts of this industry. That is our goal for this year.”

Jenny McDaniels, senior manager of category strategy at Kellogg, said in a statement: “When trying to best assess a future product’s shelf placement, this new methodology provided optimal guidance from both a product and category perspective. This approach provided multiple data outputs, which in turn created a holistic solution that would drive success for both the category and product.”

In fact, this new data led to insights that directly contradicted assumptions reached by traditional methods. Rather than placing Pop Tarts Bites on higher shelves, which conventional testing indicated was where consumers expect to find new products, the VR solution demonstrated that optimal placement for the new product was on lower shelves. This is what led to the aforementioned increase in brand sales of 18 percent during testing.

“XR provides transformative value to the enterprise,” said Patrick Costello, senior director of business development at Qualcomm Technologies, in an interview.

This pilot represents an important step in transforming retail merchandising. Brands spend considerable time, money, and manual effort determining optimal product placement and assortment on store shelves, as well as arriving at a pricing strategy. However, these efforts tend to be limited by the depth and quality of available data.

Above: Accenture’s plan for virtual retail analysis.

Image Credit: Accenture

The new approach focuses on three key areas:

  • Expanding testing reach to diverse locations. Companies can invite geographically dispersed consumers to use the mobile VR headsets for product testing in their homes, at brick-and-mortar stores, during product road shows, 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. During the shopping process, companies can gather data using eye-tracking technology that is built into the VR headset in a manner that does not interrupt the shopping experience. The resulting analytics provide detailed insights into actual consumer behavior, such as which products attract their attention, where they look first or gaze longest, and what helps to trigger buying decisions.
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The VR merchandising solution will be on display at MWC 2019 Barcelona from February 25 to 28 in the Accenture booth.

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