One of the biggest challenges for new product marketing research has been how to effectively, and realistically describe or simulate the new product or service through text and image descriptions, or through expensive test markets and prototyping. Technology is revolutionizing this aspect of new product development marketing research through the application of virtual and augmented reality and 3D printing.
There are three types of virtual reality:
- VR = Virtual Reality. An immersive experience in stereoscopic 360-degree video, animation, or a combination of the world. The viewer essentially “leaves the world.”
- AR = Augmented Reality. In augmented reality, virtual elements and information are overlaid onto your normal field of vision. You “remain in your world,” but your experience is augmented with additional elements,
This “new” technology isn’t new. Deutsche Bank’s Virtual Reality Report predicts 9 to 10 million VR devices to be in consumers’ hands globally and 5 to 6 million in the US alone by the end of 2017. Of these, 55% will be mobile and 45% desktop. And Frank Magid Associates reports that 8% of all US smartphone users say they already regularly consume VR content.
After Gaming, Marketing will be the next large user of VR to create immersive experiences between consumers and brands. Tourism and Hospitality use VR for marketing cruise ships, resorts, and hotels. Architects, engineers, and homebuilders use VR to design buildings. Virtual shopping, virtual dressing rooms, and virtual showrooms facilitate the online shopping experience. And of course, whatever can be experienced through VR can be tested with marketing research as well.
3D Printing 101
3D printing is a process of making solid, three-dimensional objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object uses successive layers of material built up to create the entire object. The process starts with making a virtual design in a computer-aided design (CAD) file using a 3D program (for the creation of a totally new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). Microsoft and Google enabled their hardware to perform 3D scanning, which means we will soon be using our phones to digitize real objects into 3D models, much as we now use our phones to take pictures.
In new product development, the most exciting application of 3D printing is rapid and inexpensive prototyping. Consumer reactions to concepts or descriptions is not always as reliable as using a prototype. But creating and transporting prototypes is prohibitively expensive and challenging. Now, instead of developing a few expensive prototypes that are then physically transported to the research sites, research sites will have their own 3D printers, and they will produce the stimuli. The 3D printed prototype will cost much less, and shipping will be eliminated, dramatically lowering the cost.
In fact, the cost could become so low, that researchers will be able to test multiple product versions simultaneously. Researchers have typically delayed producing a prototype until design was nearly complete. Now, inexpensive 3D printed objects make it possible to test with real objects, even at very early stages of product development.
3D printing also enables rapid iteration of research and design. If marketers learn in early testing that an attribute or feature of the product must change, they simply send a new 3D file to the research sites. The site prints the new prototype, and the research proceeds without a hitch.
Advanced technologies like VR, augmented reality and 3D printing, are making new product development testing faster, cheaper and less risky. This will revolutionize how we approach product development and innovation, by making consumer insight more readily available for more projects.