How do computer-generated, virtual reality home tours influence consumer perceptions and behavior?
That was the key question Kelley Anderson set out to answer a couple of years ago after starting her doctoral studies in marketing at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. She has since uncovered answers of interest to the residential real estate industry and launched spin-off research projects that are yielding a better understanding of the power of virtual reality (VR) technology.
"There are so many great, new marketing technologies in our environment today. However, having spent time in industry before starting my doctoral studies, I know how overwhelming it can be to identify the best tools to market and communicate with consumers," Anderson said. "I seek to learn more about how consumers use innovative marketing technologies to better inform managers' marketing strategies."
Some of her research is funded by Matterport, a Silicon Valley global company that uses artificial intelligence capabilities to turn two-dimensional photographs into interactive three-dimensional tours of properties. This technology gives users control over how they effectively move around in computer-generated environment simulations. The company services the real estate, travel and hospitality industries, among others.
"This technology is taking the place of old video walk-throughs," Anderson said. "Users taking 3D tours feel like they're in the space, they can walk around and experience it."
Click on this image to begin an interactive, self-guided tour of the upper atrium at Rawls College. (Courtesy of Kelley Anderson and Matterport)
Much of Anderson's research focuses on the real estate industry. In her initial study, she and Rawls College doctoral student K.T. Manis examined over 18,000 home sales in a metro market in the southern part of the United States to understand how this technology affects the sales process. They found that sellers who offered potential buyers the chance to view the home through an interactive 3D tour sold those homes faster and for significantly higher prices than sellers who did not provide that type of interactive simulated property tour or who offered only photographs or video tours.
She later launched a second research project, funded by a Rawls College doctoral student research grant, to seek the why behind the first project.
"I wanted to understand what the process is for consumers that drives value for them," she said. "For instance, why are they willing to pay more if they've been given a 3D tour of a property?"
To understand this value to consumers, she interviewed buyers, sellers, agents, professional property photographers, and 3D technology providers. She found that such tours increase buyers' trust of the real estate agent and strengthen their bond with both the agent and the home, she said.
"VR tours allow consumers more control over their experience and, as a result, create multiple benefits, including quality perceptions, convenience, trust and bond for the home and/or agent, ultimately resulting in improved consumer value," Anderson said.
Anderson has launched a third project funded by Matterport to quantify the results from her previous studies. She is exploring whether findings from her first two projects will hold true in additional industries. So far, she is finding they do hold true.
"I feel so fortunate for the amazing faculty at Rawls. I cannot express how grateful I am for their encouragement and valuable guidance during this journey," Anderson said.