Product Acceptance Tests in Sensory Labs, Virtual Environments, and Field Settings: A Consumer Segmentation Perspective
Every year, companies spend billions of dollars on sensory marketing research concerning food and personal care products, particularly in the context of new product launches. At the same time, product failure rates are a major concern in especially these industries, which casts doubt on the generalizability of forecasts extracted from lab-based product acceptance testing. Recent research has started to investigate whether virtual consumption environments can mimic field acceptance tests in controlled experiments. While these studies offer important insights for sensory marketing research, they do not allow for any conclusion as to whether results from virtual test environments correspond to those generated in real settings. Addressing this gap in research, our study is the first to compare the results of consumer acceptance tests conducted in a sensory lab, a virtual environment, and a field setting. We find that, in comparison to the sensory lab, the virtual environment yields a stronger overlap with the field environment in terms of consumer segmentation. Considering that researchers and practitioners routinely rely on clustering of acceptance scores in an effort to disclose consumer groups that significantly differ in their preferences, our findings are compelling for improving sensory marketing research.