Research Resources

MSI Research Initiative on Customer Experience

Co-Chairs: Bernd Schmitt (Columbia University), Peter C. Verhoef (University of Groningen), Katherine N. Lemon (Boston College), and Ross Rizley (MSI)

The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) is pleased to announce an initiative to foster novel research on the broad topic of customer experience. We have allocated a special pool of funds to cover the direct costs of research grants in the range of $3,000 - $15,000. Competitive submissions should propose high quality research on critical questions in this area that are relevant to both academics and marketing practitioners. This is open to all research methodologies and approaches.

Submissions will be evaluated using a two-stage process. The initial submission should be a pre-proposal not more than 1,200 words in length describing the proposed research plan (details below).Pre-proposals may be submitted at any time through June, 2016 (i.e., there is no deadline). MSI will evaluate pre-proposals on a rapid, rolling basis.

The authors of promising pre-proposals will be encouraged to submit a full proposal (no more than 20 double-spaced pages) for consideration for funding. Those follow-on full proposals will be evaluated – and funding decisions made – on a rolling basis as well. (For more details on submission of full proposals, visit us here).

The process will continue until the special pool of funds has been depleted – or until July 1, 2016. At that point, MSI will continue encouraging and entertaining submissions on the topic of customer experience; however, those submissions will compete for funding with the larger pool of submitted research proposals on a variety of topics that MSI receives on an ongoing basis.


Understanding and managing the customer experience is a major concern of most firms, as well as one of the cornerstones of the marketing discipline. Managing customer experience effectively is considered by most practitioners to be a critical driver of their firm’s long-term success. In 2014, MSI’s 70+ member companies considered customer experience so important that they selected it as the highest research priority for 2014-2016 (“Understanding Customers and the Customer Experience”).

Despite its perceived importance – and the numerous papers and books that have dealt with the topic – our theoretical and substantive knowledge about customer experience is quite limited. Given the complex nature of customer experience, managers are faced with an overwhelming set of issues and challenges relating to customer experience. At present, there is insufficient empirically-based guidance as to best practices for customer experience management.

The goal of this research competition is to stimulate new and novel academic work that will help scholars and managers better understand, design, manage and measure customer experience.

Topics: Research proposals should address an intriguing problem with a balance of rigor and relevance. The resulting insights should provide new tools, methods, insights or suggested actions for business practice. Topics appropriate for the research competition include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Strengthening our understanding of how to conceptualize, define, and measure customer experience
  • Understanding sociological and cultural influences on customer experience
  • Identifying new tools for visualizing, prototyping, and measuring the customer experience (e.g., new approaches to customer journey mapping and customer experience design)
  • Identifying the best ways to model the consumer decision journey, including potentially developing approaches that go beyond the traditional path to purchase or decision funnel
  • Investigating whether and how multiple types of data and methods should be combined to understand and measure the total customer experience
  • Mapping, measuring and managing customer experiences in complex decision environments (e.g., high stakes, multiple decision-makers, long time frames)
  • Longitudinal, dynamic, and/or networked views of customer experience
  • Leveraging insights from psychology, neuroscience and big data to strengthen our understanding of customer experience
  • Understanding the relationships between past experiences, current experiences and anticipated experiences
  • Understanding how the interplay of experiences across firms and between industries affects customer experiences
  • Examining how micro-experiences – a sequence of touchpoints – are aggregated to form overall impressions
  • Examining the role of habit and inertia in the customer experience
  • Deepening our understanding of how and at what points emotions influence customer experience
  • Identifying key sensory, affective and cognitive triggers for customer experience
  • Examining how future innovations and technologies (e.g., the Internet of Things, robotics, and self-enhancement technologies) may change the customer experience
  • Examining how social media and digital technologies may change customer experiences and the consumer path to purchase
  • Demonstrating how customer experience affects customer happiness, loyalty and recommendations
  • Improving our understanding of how providing superior customer experience contributes to consumer and societal well-being
  • Providing new insight into how specific marketing and retailing activities influence customer experience


All pre-proposals should follow this format:

  • Title: Title of Research
  • Researchers: Name, affiliation and contact information for all researchers
  • Statement of Intended Contribution: This section should include a clear, concise statement of how the proposed research would provide a novel and interesting contribution and what marketing managers might do differently as a result of the research findings.
  • Motivation and Research Question(s): This section should include a statement of the specific research question(s) that will be addressed, why they are important and interesting, and what the researchers expect to learn from answering these questions.
  • Brief Description of the Research Design and Methodology: This section should include study design, data sources/collection procedures, experiments to be run (if applicable), modeling techniques to be used (if applicable), and any other relevant details.
  • Overall Funding and Support Needs: This section should include a brief description of the budget for the project including specific budget items and amounts (not to exceed $15,000).
  • Vita(e) of the researchers.

Pre-proposals should not exceed 1,200 words excluding vita(e) and title page.

Pre-proposals are encouraged to draw upon diverse theoretical perspectives and methodologies. Studies may be conceptual or empirical; and they may involve combinations of methodological approaches including literature reviews, comparative studies, observational and ethnographic studies, naturalistic, laboratory, or field experiments, econometric models, and so forth. Projects using multiple methodologies are especially welcomed. Researchers are encouraged to identify industry collaborators.

Email pre-proposals to Ross Rizley at

Ross Rizley
Marketing Science Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
+1 617-491-2060