Guest article by Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, Sebastian Hohenberg & Ronny Behrens.

Three-dimensional virtual and interactive spaces (3VIS) are the backbone of several streams of value creation these days. Those streams include console and PC games such as ‘Assassins Creed’ which attract millions of consumers and ‘metaverse’ applications for consumers (who socialize in apps such as Roblox and VRChat), managers (who meet and train in 3VIS), and educators (who teach in them). Spatial Marketing aims to harvest the value-creation potential of such 3VIS by integrating the different streams and exchanging knowledge between them, as well as applying 3VIS expertise to new areas where operations have so far been limited to physical environments (such as the retail outlet in our mall) or ‘flat’ digital environments (such as shopping websites).

So, what is Spatial Marketing then? Adding a third dimension to the internet opens up a large array of business opportunities, and we frame spatial marketing as the creation and delivery of value for customers using such 3VIS. There is evidence that the value potential of 3VIS differs with the access hardware – spatial computing devices such as Apple’s Vision Pro and Meta’s Quest headsets allow users to experience a degree of ‘presence’ in 3VIS that is substantially higher than when using 2D screens. When sharing 3VIS with others, which can be seen as their most powerful use case, interactions via headsets resemble those in the physical environment way more than interactions via Zoom. 

For those who study or market services, spatial marketing is of relevance, as today’s main applications of 3VIS, including video games and metaverse events, can be considered as digital services like many ‘flat’ internet offerings, with a spatial twist if you want. But 3VIS hold potential for service managers and researchers well beyond that:

Service management and organization: Among the most promising fields of 3VIS usage are business meetings. Service organizations can improve their organizational effectiveness and efficiency by adding 3VIS to their portfolio of meeting environments and identify those parts of the internal value-creation process that can be enhances by virtual meetings, and how such meetings should be designed so that they deliver on their promises. Organizational activities for which 3VIS are already used by (service) firms include idea generation, social gatherings such as the onboarding of new hires, and the training of employees in safe and easy to accessible settings.

Service delivery: But 3VIS are not exclusive to internal organizational usage; they can also be used to improve the customer interface. Digital service interactions are often hampered by the low media richness of 2D websites, and 3VIS promise to overcome such limitations of ‘flat’ digital settings. Service and sales employees can invite customers to join them in their 3VIS, which can illustrate the value potential of the offered service in ‘personal’ meetings in a shared virtual room. Such usage of 3VIS as employee-customer interfaces are not limited to interactions between humans (or consumers and AI-powered avatars), but could also involve interactions with physical products, such as in 3D retailscapes. Moreover, 3VIS can incorporate 3D virtual ‘objects’, which qualifies them for usage by B2B firms when it comes to visualize complex service offerings remotely. Boundary-spanning activities are carried out already by pioneering service providers, for example, in the insurance industry (Germany’s ERGO and Swiss’ Helvetia) and used for product demonstrations at fairs.

Service venues: Adding a third dimension to digital services empowers 3VIS to function as platforms for social activities by groups of consumers. While social consumption traditionally creates substantial economic value in the form of movie-going, music concerts, university lectures, and industry fairs, it has been largely restricted to physical environments. Now, 3VIS can offer virtual venues in which people can meet via their headsets and engage in all kinds of activities together. These activities can resemble physical social activities while freeing them from their geographic location; when a movie theater is in the metaverse (try the BigScreen app), it doesn’t matter which country you are in to join the screening, as long as you have a device at hand and access to a high-speed internet connection. Beyond that, 3VIS also enable social activities which are unique to virtuality, where a service provider’s imagination is the main limitation.

Service research: 3VIS can also be a powerful tool for service scholars when it comes to theory testing. 3VIS can be designed as twins of physical servicescapes, which offers scholars the chance to study service consumers’ behavior with much higher external validity than 2D experimental vignettes can offer, while at the same time providing higher level of control (and often lower costs) than experiments conducted in physical spaces.

If 3VIS offer such potential for practice and research, why are they not used more often then? Answering this question requires us to define ‘more often’: about 200 million of current generation gaming consoles have been sold for which 3VIS games are among the greatest attractions, metaverse apps are used by a total of 400 million consumers, and when it comes to the use of by (service) companies it is probably harder now to find a firm that does not make use of 3VIS than one that does. However, there is certainly still more room for the adoption of VR headsets, particularly among consumers. What are the main barriers that are in the way of (even) more widespread usage then? Supply barriers include the experience nature of 3VIS and the technology needed to use them, which makes convincing people cumbersome. As 3VIS are meant for social usage, there are also network barriers: Given the lack of a solid installed user base, for most consumers there are very few or even no friends to use available apps and offerings with. Last but not least, demand-sided barriers exist, as they usually do for radically new products such as 3VIS and headset hardware. Understanding each of them deserves a prominent spot in future spatial marketing research.

But such barriers aside, we consider 3VIS as an exciting new field for marketers and managers not only in services, but particularly in this field. We need spatial marketing research to better understand how 3VIS shape how people work, shop, and consume, and how their value-creation potential can be boosted. Get in touch when you want to board the journey with us!

Some literature for those who want to know more:  

  • Hennig-Thurau, T. et al. (2023): Social interactions in the metaverse: Framework, initial evidence, and research roadmap, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 51, 889-913.
  • Aliman, N., T. Hennig-Thurau, and A. Henke (2023):  Meetings in the Enterprise Metaverse: How Virtual Reality Affects Scaled Business Agility, working paper. See
  • Hennig-Thurau, T. and B. Ognibeni (2022): Metaverse Marketing, NIM Marketing Intelligence Review, 14, 43-47.

All three authors are located at the Marketing Center of the University of Münster, Germany, and the MCM’s eXperimental Reality Lab (

Thorsten Hennig-Thurau
Chair for Marketing & Media
University Münster

Sebastian Hohenberg
Chair of Digital Transformation
University Münster

Ronny Behrens
Assistant Professor
University Münster