Research Grants Target CX: Getting Marketing Right in Real Time

September 9, 2016

Getting marketing right in real time is a priority for MSI members. How can firms hit just the right notes at the right point in the customer journey? In a first round of funding, MSI has funded 11 research studies that promise to help managers better understand, design, manage, and measure customer experience.

“Managers are faced with an overwhelming set of issues and challenges related to customer experience,” Executive Director Kay Lemon notes. “The issues are complex and unwieldy, and we need to build up a strong set of rigorous knowledge that begins to address these challenges.”

“This initiative aims to build research capabilities, much as MSI did in the 1980s by supporting research on brands and brand equity, to offer new models and ways of understanding touchpoints in the customer journey,” says Research Director Gordon Wyner. “Even at early stages of research, members can tap into this knowledge for insights into what they can do differently.”

Online reviews, collaborative networks, and free samples

A critical touchpoint in many purchase journeys are consumer-generated online reviews. In “Confusion or Conversion? The Role of Product Reviews in Desktop and Mobile Purchase Journeys,” Xiao Liu, Dokyun Lee, and Kannan Srinivasan will look at how conversion effects differ across these devices. Their goal: “to outline a search model and data analytic tool that marketers can use to accurately predict conversion in real time and re-design the review ranking and presenting system to boost profits.”

How can firms support and capture value from co-created experiences? In “How Consumer Experiences Aggregate to Create Value in Collaborative Consumer-Producer Networks,” Bernardo Figueiredo and Daiane Scaraboto use to develop a “map” of value creation that connects individual micro-experiences to network-level outcomes. “This knowledge is particularly relevant for managers of platform-based businesses where the aim is to support consumer interaction and create synergies among various consumer touchpoints,” the researchers note.

How can firms support and capture value from co-created experiences? offers insights.


Research by V. Kumar, JeeWon (Brianna) Choi, and Anita Pansari focuses on the influence of a specific marketing activity—free product samples—in the customer journey. In “Impact of Free Samples on Customer Experience and Customer Engagement,” they explore the effectiveness of free samples on product trial and the effect of product trial on individual-level customer experience.

Waiting in line is an all-too-familiar consumer experience, and based on insights from social psychology, Michael Norton, Ryan Buell, and Jay Chakraborty will explore whether being in or near the last place in a line predicts whether consumers switch lines or forgo the experience altogether. They note: “Through a richer understanding of what influences the attitudes of waiting customers, organizations can deliver more satisfying service experiences.”

“Through a richer understanding of what influences the attitudes of waiting customers, organizations can deliver more satisfying service experiences.”

Several studies apply new tools and technologies to understand and measure the customer experience.

In “Why Desserts are Like Monetary Losses (But Dentist Visits are Like Monetary Gains): Leveraging Insights from the Neurophysiology of Memory to Strengthen our Understanding of Customer Experience,” Martin Reimann and Michael Norton will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to directly measure the degree of involvement of explicit memory in the marketing and consumption of experiences. “Marketers strive to design experiences that are inherently memorable,” they write. “We hope to gain insight into how they can leverage customers’ reference points in memory to guide them toward buying and enjoying their products and services.”

AI, robots, and virtual reality

Artificial intelligence systems and robotics offer enormous potential for improving consumers’ experience and outcomes in many domains, but these opportunities also face real obstacles related to consumers’ comfort with and adoption of the new technologies. Noah Castelo and Bernd Schmitt investigate how marketers might overcome consumers’ aversion to computer- and algorithm-based decision systems. Preliminary results in “Exploring the Consumer Experience with Artificial Intelligence and Robots” suggest that the degree to which these systems are seen as having human abilities such as autonomy and emotions plays an important role in the consumption experience.

Is virtual reality more persuasive than traditional channels? Kirk Kristofferson, Michelle Daniels, and Andrea Morales are among the first to examine the new medium in “Positive Effects from Negative Virtual Experiences: How Virtual Reality Can Be Used Effectively in Marketing.” Their findings aim to help managers decide “whether virtual reality is the correct medium for their firm to utilize and how best to develop content to provide maximum benefit.”

Everyday objects can “communicate” with customers through vibrating alerts. How does this influence consumer response?

A growing number of everyday objects “communicate” with consumers through various types of vibrating alerts, but not much is known about how these influence consumer response. In “A Tactile Toolbox: Documenting Consumer Responses to Technologically-Mediated Haptic Feedback,” Rhonda Hadi and Ana Valenzuela will investigate how incidental technologically-mediated touch can nonconsciously influence consumer behavior.

Data-driven learning for richer insights

Can marketers use big data techniques to measure customer experience? In “A Data-Driven Measurement System for Customer Experience and Emotional Complexity,” Mohamed Zaki and Benjamin Lucas will examine how customer experience attributes interplay with emotional complexity (as expressed in customer recounts of experience in online reviews and social media activity). The result will be tools for data-driven learning that will help managers capture richer insights about consumers.

J. Joško Brakus, Yi-Chun Ou, and Lia Zarantonello look at “Consumer Happiness and Its Role in Customer Experience Management.” They propose a new framework for understanding consumer happiness and the influence of individual moderators and type of purchase. Finally, Kelly Hewett, Stacy Wood, and Christine Moorman will focus on “Leveraging Customer Experience to Manage Innovation Investments.”

“To gain competitive advantage, firms need to know which touchpoints are most important in their market situation as well as which tools and data sources are applicable,” says Wyner. “The insights generated by this stream of research will help them focus their attention and resources where there is greatest opportunity.”

MSI extends special thanks to CX Review Committee members for their help: past MSI Research Director Ross Rizley, Bernd Schmitt, Columbia Business School, and Academic Trustee Peter Verhoef, University of Groningen.

Related links

Funding Initiative Aims to Develop New CX Tools and Insights (2016) [Article]

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