The study investigates 3D virtual advertising as it affects the online shopping environment. It examines the vividness of mental imagery as a mediator, and consumers' need for touch and product type as moderators of the effects. An experiment conducted with 207 study participants and two product types, a watch and a jacket, indicates overall that 3D advertising outperforms 2D advertising in effectiveness. The vividness of mental imagery appears to directly influence attitudes and intentions by mediating the effects of 2D versus 3D. As expected, the 3D and 2D formats consistently differed more in their effects for geometric products than for material products. Consumers' NFT affected only intentions to revisit, interacting with product type and site type. For the watch product, 3D advertising is more persuasive for both high and low NFT consumers. Comparatively, for the jacket product, 3D strongly impacts low-NFT consumers only, but has no significant difference for high-NFT study participants.
Three-dimensional (3D) images strongly affect virtual experiences (Debbabi, Daassi, & Bail, 2010; Kahrimanovic, Tiest, & Kappers, 2011; Li, Daugherty, & Biocca, 2002; Mollen & Wilson, 2010); that is, psychological states that consumers experience when they interact with 3D product images in computer-mediated environments (Li, Daugherty, & Biocca, 2001). 3D virtual experiences initiate visual mental imagery that positively impacts web advertising (Coyle & Thorson, 2001; Li et al., 2002). Object interactivity makes the message more persuasive by using sensory input such as sight to generate vivid mental images of sensory modalities such as touch, taste, and smell (Schlosser, 2003). Depicting a product more visually vivid can cause mental simulation that enhances purchase intentions: an experiment showed that when a mug was pictured with the handle on the right, it offered more mental simulation and generated higher purchase intention for right-handed viewers as a match than for left-handed viewers as a mismatch (Elder & Krishna, 2012).
Limitations and suggestions for future study
The study used only two products for the experiment. More effort is required to replicate the findings using other product types such as durables versus convenience goods, high-involvement versus lowinvolvement products, hedonic versus utilitarian products, or service products. In addition to consumers' need for touch, research design can include other user characteristics such as heuristic versus analytical information processing styles, and intrinsic or situational involvement, because different people can respond differently to the same material. Future research should employ more variables that may possibly affect the building of mental models and product imagery, such as the breadth and depth of sensory modality, interactivity, and people's immersion tendencies, to better understand consumers' responses to simulated product experiences in virtual environments.