Telepresence is something that is of great importance in the online space these days, particularly in the online retail space. Before we go into detail on why it’s important, we want to share a few definitions with you as to what exactly “telepresence” refers to;

Telepresence is the sense of being present in a virtual store where one can browse and shop in a similar manner to in a brick-and-mortar store (Shih 1998 cited in Song, Fiore and Park 2007).

Telepresence is affected by how closely quality and quantity of simulated sensory information about, and ability to interact with, the product approximate the sensory information obtained during interaction with the real product in a brick-and-mortar store (Fiore, et al 2005 cited in Song, Fiore and Park 2007).

Telepresence is a mental state where the user feels immersed in a virtual environment where real world stimuli are blocked out; resulting in the virtual environment capturing and captivating the senses (Song, Fiore and Park 2007).

Telepresence refers to “the feeling of being a part of the phenomenal environment created by a medium” such that “the user of the medium considers the items in the mediated environment as unmediated and reacts directly to the items as if they are physically present objects” (Kim and Biocca 1997 cited in Nah, Eschenbrenner and DeWester 2011).

Telepresence is also referred to as the mediated perception of an environment or “the extent to which one feels present in the mediated environment rather than in the immediate physical environment” (Steuer 1992 cited in Nah, Eschenbrenner and DeWester 2011).

As the above definitions highlight, there are different angles from which telepresence can be considered. Nah, Eschenbrenner and DeWester (2011) outline that telepresence is closely linked to the concept of “flow” within a given online space. This linkage is also considered from numerous perspectives, however it is generally accepted that these two concepts can often influence each other.

For the purpose of simplicity, we are mainly going to consider telepresence in the context of the online retail space.

Song, Fiore and Park (2007) studied how telepresence could interact with fantasies within the online clothing retail space. They examined the links between telepresence, fantasies, enjoyment, likelihood of purchase, and loyalty.

Telepresence is an important aspect of the online shopping experience as it can help to combat the reluctance that people feel to purchase when they cannot directly experience the product (Song, Fiore and Park 2007). This is also linked to fantasies, which can help to positively influence attitudes and behavioural intentions towards a product (Song, Fiore and Park 2007). The fantasies that are being referenced in this case refer to the consumer’s ability to imagine themselves using the product in various different scenarios, for example imagining being on a beautiful sunny holiday when considering whether to purchase a bikini.

It was found by Song, Fiore and Park (2007) that telepresence can cause an increased propensity to fantasise during the online retail experience, which in turn increased the value and enjoyment derived from the overall experience. However, it was also found that telepresence was not the only factor to cause fantasy and should therefore be considered as one item in the broad arsenal that creates the online experience. This could reinforce the earlier-mentioned links between telepresence and flow.

Overall, it was found by Song, Fiore and Park (2007) that telepresence and increased likelihood to fantasise resulted in;

The flow of telepresence

There are many ways that online retailers can implement telepresence. One method that is proving popular is that of the virtual model, as shown below. This can help to the customer to simulate wearing the product. However, Song, Fiore and Park (2007) suggest that this could be taken one step further to enable further fantasising to occur; the model could be shown in a number of contexts outside of the fitting room, such as on a beach or at a party.

H&M's virtual model

H&M’s virtual model

Finally, Kjesbu (2013) discusses the future potential of telepresence, outside of the online retail space. It is stated that the future of telepresence will be highly dynamic and will focus on intensity of collaboration between creators and users. This will also be likely to utilise cloud computing to further enhance the potentials of telepresence, such as automatically communicating information to your doctor and having the doctor schedule a check-up if they feel it is necessary. This small example shows that the potentials of telepresence can extend far beyond that of online retail.

We hope that this brief introduction to telepresence and its role online for marketers has been of interest to you and would happily discuss any of your thoughts in the comment section.



Kjesbu, S. 2013. The Future of Telepresence. Computerworld Philippines, 22(5), pp.22-23.

Nah, F.F., Eschenbrenner, B. and DeWester, D. 2011. Enhancing Brand Equity through Flow and Telepresence: a Comparison of 2d and 3d Virtual Worlds. MIS Quarterly, 35(3), pp.731-A19.

Song, K., Fiore, A.M. and Park, J. 2007. Telepresence and fantasy in online apparel shopping experience. Journal of Fashion Marketing & Management, 11(4), pp.553-570.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Not So Obvious Advantages of Telepresence Versus Chatting
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  3. Trackback: Low Budget Telepresence for Your Tablet

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