Seth Ketron, University of St. Thomas – The Marketing Power of VR

Studio portrait of Seth Ketron, Assistant Professor of Marketing, taken on July 24, 2023, in St. Paul.

On University of St. Thomas Week: Don’t like what’s going on in the real world? Maybe try a virtual one instead.

Seth Ketron, assistant professor of marketing, explores through a marketing lens.

Dr. Seth Ketron’s research interests encompass information processing, sensory marketing, virtual/mixed reality, and retailing, and his industry experience has been in corporate and store-side retailing (Gap Inc., Belk, the TJX Companies, and JCPenney). His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Retailing, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Research, Psychology & Marketing, Journal of Product and Brand Management, and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. He is an associate editor for Journal of Product & Brand Management and a member of the editorial review board for Journal of Consumer Behaviour. He has also coauthored The Reality of Virtuality, a practice-oriented book on the use of virtual reality in marketing and has presented numerous papers at conferences of the American Marketing Association, Academy of Marketing Science, Association for Consumer Research, Society for Marketing Advances, the Global Branding Conference, and Marketing EDGE.

The Marketing Power of VR

Virtual reality, or VR as it is often called, is an immersive technology allowing us to create experiences that transcend the limitations of physical reality as well as those of more conventional digital platforms. Marketers are taking notice of VR’s potential to transform the marketplace. For example, VR is emerging as a viable retail channel, where customers can participate in real transactions. Making these VR experiences multisensory—that is, including scents or touch sensations in addition to visual and audial inputs—can activate a state of flow, where customers feel totally plugged into what they are doing. Research shows that this flow state—this “plugged in” feeling—leads to more positive outcomes for both customers themselves and the companies with which they are doing business.

However, we must remember that the role of marketing is not solely to make money. Rather, our role is to maximize value, which we define as the ratio of benefits to costs. To that end, marketers often work to promote consumer and societal well-being, and VR can have a powerful role in those endeavors. For example, recent research has shown that the affordances of VR—immersion and telepresence—can lead to stronger connections with our world and increase agency to make positive change. This has been demonstrated in the context of sustainability, where players of a VR game designed around an Antarctic experience viewed the effects of climate change on ice and on local wildlife. After the experience, these gameplayers described a stronger connection to nature and also felt compelled to behave more sustainably in their own lives. Similar VR experiences have offered realistic and tangible representations of environmental and societal issues, which can be effective in making us think about how we can make decisions to better the world around us.

So, whether we are hoping to make shopping more immersive and fun, or whether we are hoping to get people to be more sustainable or societally minded, VR can help us get there.

Read More:
[Google Scholar]
[DeGruyter] – The Reality of Virtuality

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