Bridging Imagination Gaps on the Path to Purchase with Augmented Reality: Field and Experimental Evidence

Tim Hilken, Jonas Heller, Debbie I. Keeling, Mathew Chylinski, Dominik Mahr, Ko de Ruyter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Many firms use augmented reality (AR) that projects lifelike product holograms into the physical environment to assist customers in bridging so-called “imagination gaps,” which can arise on their path to purchase. However, research has not yet studied whether and how AR might help customers address two pertinent sources of such imagination gaps: (1) increased cognitive load when evaluating multiple products together (e.g., in a bundle) and (2) extended physical distance to the point-of-sale (e.g., out-of-store, at home). Building on mental imagery theorizing, we explain how AR supports customers in bridging these gaps, and, through a series of field and experimental studies, we evidence effects on customer purchase intentions and behavior. Specifically, we show that AR-generated imagery of bundled (versus individual) products enhances intended and actual purchases at the point-of-sale. Furthermore, when deployed at distant points in the purchase funnel (out-of-store, at-home), AR increases purchases through improved self-projection, which we describe as the psychological mechanism customers use to mentally bridge distance to the point-of-sale. We qualify this mediating mechanism through an important moderating process, where the effect of AR-generated imagery on self-projection is suppressed for customers with a holistic (versus analytic) thinking style.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Interactive Marketing
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)356-375
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 13.04.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • augmented reality
  • mental imagery
  • imagination gaps
  • purchase funnel
  • product bundles

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Competition economics and service strategy - Service and customer-oriented management


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