Selling Consumers on Smarter Choices

Helping consumers purchase goods and services they actually want is good for business.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

We all know what it’s like to be hungry in the grocery store while it’s packed before dinnertime. Our energy is low. The aisles are crowded. We might wind up in the deli or frozen section, ignoring our usual healthy or economical choices, and instead loading our baskets with items that are convenient.

Researchers like Kyle Murray, Director for the School of Retailing and professor at the University of Alberta, are looking for ways to help consumers make better choices.

Consumers are confronted with a huge variety of options when they shop. Sometimes we struggle to pick out the items we really want from amongst all the choices, especially when our energy levels are down. Murray is interested in knowing how energy levels are affected by environmental factors, and the best conditions for consumers to make sound decisions on their purchases. A few examples of factors that influence shopping experiences include scent, sound, and sunlight.

What is good for consumers is also good for businesses. The idea behind successful marketing is not to trick customers into making impulse purchases that they later regret, but to help them make the right decisions when they shop.

“The most successful businesses get us to buy things or help us buy things that we really do want; the more that we can help consumers make better decisions, the more we help retailers run better businesses,” says Murray. “They have fewer returns, they have happier customers, they are more profitable. Those two things really go hand in hand, even if it’s not maybe initially intuitive.”

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Prof. Kyle Murray is a Professor of Marketing, Winspear Senior Faculty Fellow and the Director of the School of Retailing at the Alberta School of Business. Prior to joining the University of Alberta, he was an Assistant Professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business. Dr. Murray has held visiting professorships at the Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), INSEAD (France), and Monash University (Australia). He received his B.Sc. in Psychology and Ph.D. in Marketing and Psychology from the University of Alberta.

Kyle studies human judgment and decision making. His work uses the tools of experimental psychology and behavioral economics to better understand the choices that consumers make. Professor Murray’s research has been published in leading journals in marketing, management information systems and organizational behavior, including the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of the Academy of Marketing ScienceJournal of Marketing Research, MIS Quarterly, MIT Sloan Management Reviewand Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

This research has applications in shopper marketing, customer loyalty, electronic retailing, and pricing. Dr. Murray has consulted in these areas for clients including the Competition Bureau of Canada, Consumers Council of Canada, General Motors, Industry Canada, Johnson and Johnson, Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, LoyaltyOne, and Microsoft. His two books are The Retail Value Proposition and CB.