Bridging Imagination Gaps on the Path to Purchase with Augmented Reality
Many firms use augmented reality (AR) that projects lifelike product holograms into the physical environment to assist customers in bridging so-called “imagination gaps,” which can arise on their path to purchase. However, research has not yet studied whether and how AR might help customers address two pertinent sources of such imagination gaps:
(1) increased cognitive load when evaluating multiple products together (e.g., in a bundle) and
(2) extended physical distance to the point-of-sale (e.g., out-of-store, at home).
Building on mental imagery theorizing, we explain how AR supports customers in bridging these gaps, and, through a series of field and experimental studies, we evidence effects on customer purchase intentions and behavior. Specifically, we show that AR-generated imagery of bundled (versus individual) products enhances intended and actual purchases at the point-of-sale. Furthermore, when deployed at distant points in the purchase funnel (out-of-store, at-home), AR increases purchases through improved self-projection, which we describe as the psychological mechanism customers use to mentally bridge distance to the point-of-sale. We qualify this mediating mechanism through an important moderating process, where the effect of AR-generated imagery on self-projection is suppressed for customers with a holistic (versus analytic) thinking style.
We are delighted to announce that we published this project in the Journal of Interactive Marketing. We would like to thank the DEXLab for providing some of the AR equipment that has been used in the studies.
Check out the paper here (open access): Link to the paper
Hilken, T., Heller, J., Keeling, D. I., Chylinski, M., Mahr, D., & de Ruyter, K. (2022). Bridging Imagination Gaps on the Path to Purchase with Augmented Reality: Field and Experimental Evidence. Journal of Interactive Marketing. https://doi.org/10.1177/10949968221083555