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Prioritizing marketing research in virtual reality: development of an immersion/fantasy typology

Kirsten Cowan (Department of Marketing, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Seth Ketron (Department of International Business and Marketing, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 12 September 2019




Virtual reality (VR) is of increasing interest to marketers because it can be used to explore and proactively shape long-term futures, co-create value with consumers, and foster consumer-brand engagement. Yet, to date, the field lacks a cohesive framework for approaching VR research; thus, the objective of this systematic literature review is to provide such a framework and highlight research opportunities.


First, after conducting a systematic literature review, we highlight VR themes instrumental to flow and propose a typology for VR research using realism-fantasy and immersion as dimensions. Next, we review the current state of empirical research for each quadrant. Finally, we synthesize research within each quadrant, specifying criteria and considerations for conducting research. In doing so, we propose an agenda for marketing research, centered on methodological, future studies, and consumer-related contributions.


VR themes instrumental to flow include the avatar, application quality, and interactivity. We find, contrary to some conceptualizations of VR, that all applications are capable of producing flow. Conflicting research and gaps are highlighted in the findings section and summarized in Table III. Additionally, while prior research seems to draw from findings of other VR applications in advancing knowledge in general, the results of the literature review suggest that VR applications should be treated uniquely. Finally, we propose highly immersive VR applications as more conducive to future studies research.

Research limitations/implications

Scholars can utilize the findings to prioritize future research studies in marketing. By following the typology and research opportunities, scholars can advance marketing theory and enhance the external validity of research studies through VR applications.

Practical implications

Managers can utilize the findings to ascertain consumers and societies‘ responses to various marketing stimuli, with implications for product development, branding, retail/service experiences, adoption of new technologies, tourism, and many other domains. VR applications offer managers more ways of testing concepts and processes in realistic fashion without the costs and risks associated with more traditional methods.


The objective of this paper is to examine varying opportunities for VR research given flow and fantasy potential and to prioritize VR research.



Cowan, K. and Ketron, S. (2019), "Prioritizing marketing research in virtual reality: development of an immersion/fantasy typology", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 8, pp. 1585-1611.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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