Understanding the Behavioral Drivers of Execution Failures in Retail Supply Chains: An Experimental Study Using Virtual Reality



We conduct a real-effort experiment in an immersive virtual environment in order to quantify the role of product similarity in execution failures in a retail setting. In our experiments, subjects must identify and sort two types of products based on their observable characteristics. When the two products are very similar, performance is substantially lower (with both more sorting errors and more products left unsorted) than when the products are more dissimilar. Introducing a clear visual cue to distinguish the products improves execution when the products are dissimilar (by lowering sorting mistakes) and, even more so, when they are similar (both by reducing sorting mistakes and the number of products unsorted). In the latter case the average increase in overall performance is over 22 percentage points. Our results suggest that there may be important gains from taking ease of execution into account in the design of products, product packaging, and labeling.