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.
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.
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.
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