While we look for the best deals at stores, an IU Kelley School of Business professor watches us

A Black Friday crowd rushes for good deals at a store opening in 2012

A Black Friday crowd rushes for good deals at a store opening in 2012

For weeks, anyone near a television or radio has heard relentlessly about Black Friday and, new this year, “early Black Friday sales.” What many years ago was dubbed the “official start” of the holiday shopping season has itself become something of a phenomenon.

Among those watching how we respond are several faculty members in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, including Raymond Burke, the E.W. Kelley Professor of business administration and founding director of the Kelley School’s Customer Interface Laboratory.

Also a respected marketing professor, Burke and his state-of-the-art facility investigate how customers interact with new retail environments and technologies. More simply, he studies the “science of shopping” and coined the term “shoppability” to describe the capacity of the retail environment to convert consumer demand into purchases.

Research firms around the world have used his retail simulations. Stores where you’ve likely shopped have applied his findings to make your experience more pleasant.

Raymond Burke

Raymond Burke

Burke’s research focuses on understanding the influence of point-of-purchase factors — including new products, product packaging, pricing, promotions, assortments and displays — on consumer shopping behavior.

Earlier this year, Burke gave a presentation at TEDx Indianapolis, and the video appropriately was just posted online in the past few days. In his talk, Burke goes back to his experience as a teenage camera salesman to explain the value of watching shoppers.

In little more than 16 minutes, Burke discusses why companies are so intent on using technology to track our shopping behavior.

“Occasionally, you’ll read stories about this kind of tracking in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and they tend to have headlines like ‘Big Brother is watching us’ or ‘Spying the aisles.’ So they have a very negative tone,” he told his audience. “You might ask, ‘Ray, why do you spend so much time and energy watching shoppers, especially when there are these legitimate concerns about consumer privacy?

“The reason is because I believe that through these insights you can improve the customer experience. You can increase customer satisfaction and increase business performance,” Burke said. “If we watch what people buy, we can infer what their needs and desires are and even anticipate what those needs will be in the future.”

Before coming to Kelley, he served on the faculties of the Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. His articles have appeared in several major journals, including the Harvard Business Review, the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing and Marketing Science. He is founding editor of the Journal of Shopper Research. It probably should be no surprise that Burke also holds four patents on new retail technologies.

Ray’s been watching you. Now it’s your turn to watch him.


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