Entrepreneurial Resilience and Collaborative Engagement in Digital Marketing Tools in the Form of Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality: An Analysis of Small-Scale Stationary Retail in Austria

Small-scale retail is losing more of its sales. Growing competition from large retailers, business model innovations from these and new players, and the introduction of digital technologies shape today’s retail sector. Small-scale retailers are also confronted with changing customer needs. Imperative for survival in retail in this current market environment are innovation and digitization on several levels. Entrepreneurship literature emphasizes that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) fact resource constraints in terms of financial and human resources compared to large incumbents. Being disadvantaged in terms of resources, a redefinition of their marketing approach, poses great challenges for small-scale retailers. Although a number of studies have demonstrated the clear competitive impact of adapting digital services in retailing, research on the adaption and application of digital technologies and its effect on SME stationary retail is missing.

In this research project, we thus focus on the adoption of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) as distribution and communication tools and analyze the question, whether engaging on this path of digitization will make SME retailers more resilient. Networks play a critical role in the entrepreneurial process in terms of access to tangible and intangible resources. Accordingly, we look at the role of networks and how collaborations might enhance or decrease entrepreneurial resilience.

In our empirical methodology, we adopt a two-stage approach: First, we employ a qualitative approach, using a minimum of three focus groups with retailers (n = 10 – 12 / focus group), during which we present AR and VR solutions to the participants. By actually trying and using AR / VR, we will be able to find out their degree of acceptance, possible organizational challenges and benefits for adopting VR / AR, barriers and benefits of collaboration, and their perceived impact on entrepreneurial resilience. Second, a quantitative conjoint-analysis will be employed to identify the best package of digitization, including the impact of perceived resilience and collaboration efforts.

The joint and interdisciplinary development of the research problem by the participating research institutions results in greater networking within the Austrian research landscape. The funded research project will also support young scientists.

The results of the research project and its dissemination strategy will raise awareness among regional stakeholders for digitization in small-scale retail. Concrete recommendations for action for small-scale retailers may in return strengthen the regional economy.