Academic research is playing a role in reviving the high street.
The research of Anders Gustafsson, a recently appointed Distinguished Professorial Fellow, looks at in-store customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty. He has worked with some of Scandinavia’s biggest businesses, including furniture giant IKEA, to research the direct link between sensory marketing and increased customer sales.
He says retailers with a physical presence are under enormous pressure from their online counterparts, and they need to be investing in and enhancing their in-store customer experiences to compete.
Contrary to common thinking, he says as much as 90 per cent of shopping is still done in physical stores, albeit that consumers will sometimes then make a later purchase online.
“People enjoy using their senses when shopping, whether that’s smell, music or touch, and it all plays a role in that customer’s purchasing journey. Some stores will survive even if they are exposed to high competition from the internet because people like going into stores and don’t want to be without them. But in order to survive these stores need to focus on detail. They need to focus on how they display products, how their employees interact with customers. If you build up a picture that is appealing to customers they will ultimately come to your store and do their shopping with you instead of online.”
Professor Gustafsson said service remains key. “It is very difficult if someone in a store gives you a lot of help to then not buy from them, as long as the difference in price to buying online is not too great. If you help the customer and they enjoy the experience they will buy from you and come back to you again.”
He adds that there is now a lot of room for academic research to be a key component in keeping the high street alive. “I’m looking forward to working with staff and students here at Alliance Manchester Business School to understand how we can better support business locally and nationally,” he adds.
Business to business
Professor Gustafsson is one of a number of recent appointments made in the marketing division at Alliance MBS. He has also been joined by Professor Christian Homburg, an award-winning marketing academic who specialises in marketing management and pricing stategies.
He says the importance of marketing as an academic field continues to rise. “My field focuses on B2B marketing and it’s an area with huge academic potential. There are thousands of businesses in the UK and further afield interacting with each other, yet there’s little academic research on it and this leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
Alliance MBS is very well placed to capitalise on this and with the school recently investing in its marketing management and strategy work, it’s an exciting time to join the department.”
Professor Homburg says one of the major issues in marketing research is that there can be a tendency for academics to take rigorous academic research too far and lose contact with practical life. “Personally I think this is problematic. Strong academic work needs strong links to practice.”
He said one of the reasons for this trend is that it is now so easy to get data from consumers through the internet. “Relevant strategy research has to gather data from companies which is often much more difficult. Today there is also the issue of data security so companies are even more reluctant to give away data. So this may be a reason why people turn away from strategy research and more towards consumer research. Consumer research is important for marketing but it is not everything.”
Professor Bryan Lukas, Associate Head of Research and Chair of Marketing at Alliance MBS, added: “Our marketing department is continuing to grow, not only by academic headcount but by the volume of research we’re undertaking. Christian and Anders are both renowned experts in their chosen fields, and our students will really benefit from their presence at the School.”
Anders Gustafsson is Professor of Marketing at the Norwegian Business School and Distinguished Professorial Fellow at Alliance Manchester Business School.
Christian Homburg is Professor of Marketing and Director of the Institute for Market-Oriented Management (IMU) at the University of Mannheim and Distinguished Professorial Fellow at Alliance Manchester Business School.