How real are virtual experiences?

Amira Trabelsi-Zoghlami (Department of Marketing, Universite de Carthage Institut Superieur de Commerce et de Comptabilite de Bizerte, Zarzouna, Tunisia)
Mourad Touzani (Department of Marketing, NEOMA Business School, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Publication date: 19 June 2019



This paper aims to explore the virtual experience to understand its components and its effects on consumers’ real world.


Our approach relies on a rarely used projective method: “Album-on-Line” (AOL). This technique allows identifying consumers’ representations of their experience. It uses images to immerse participants in a virtual experience and to lead an individual reflection, then a group reflection.


Virtual experiences have utilitarian, hedonic, psychological and social dimensions. When immersing in virtual experiences, consumers’ perception and consumption of products and services change. A projection occurs leading to an identification to virtual characters. This projection also leads to a consumption aiming at finding back the excitement and challenge lived during virtual experiences.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of this research relates with the fuzzy distinction between the virtual and the electronic in consumers’ minds and even in the literature. Future work should propose a multidisciplinary definition of the virtual experience, considering its specificities and components.

Practical implications

This research offers companies a better understanding of consumers’ motivations to live virtual experiences. It may bring insights on how to provide a more customized offering and a more adapted communication.


Compared to previous work, the present research offers a better understanding of the components of online and offline virtual experiences by considering the virtual in its broadest meaning. The use of the AOL technique enabled a closer look at the specificities of the virtual experience as perceived by consumers. It was also possible to explore the “post-experience” stage by understanding the effect of virtual experiences on consumers’ perceptions and consumptions.



Trabelsi-Zoghlami, A. and Touzani, M. (2019), "How real are virtual experiences?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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