Houston’s vast retail landscape of more than 17,000 establishments is one sign that brick and mortar retail has not gasped its last breath.
Retailers know that merchandising using evidence-based consumer data is more important than ever in the face of online competition.
Marketing & Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Sam Hui constructs research studies that track consumer behavior.
Does a particular shopper look only at prices, or do they spend time checking out nutritional labels as well? Are there statistically relevant differences in behavior for shoppers who are left-handed or right-handed, or for those who are overweight versus of average weight? For items not at eye level, what is the placement threshold for diminishing sales?
“We’re kind of zooming in on consumer behavior and watching in higher and higher resolution,” Hui said. “Shopping is an interesting behavior that’s worth looking into. People in urban studies are looking at how people interact with their environment and this is a little bit similar. I find it fascinating.”
Hui’s grocery store studies have used devices that have evolved over time in sophistication, leading to the current gold standard, eyeglasses with an eye tracking device that measures pupil dilation. Hui’s research collects and analyzes fine-grained information that expands on an old marketing adage: “Eye level is buy level.”
He also collects and analyzes data on online shopping behavior, and a number of businesses have used or adapted his methodologies.
Just a few examples: Hui is co-founder of homeprice.com.hk, which has become the top online real estate appraisal site in Hong Kong and has made more than seven million real estate valuations to date. His applied research has benefitted Amazon, Unity Technology, Machine Zone, Merck, RetailNext, Advantage Healthcare, Relay Network, Playnomics (acquired by Unity), Rent Bureau (acquired by Experian), among others.
By Julie Bonnin