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CiBiC partners with The Integer Group to glean consumer insights

When leaders of The Integer Group first visited Daniels College of Business’s Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center (CiBiC), both groups immediately saw the benefits of working together.

After all, Integer, the world’s leading commerce agency, and CiBiC share a similar mission: understanding consumers’ shopping motivations and behavior. Working together, they developed a proprietary model that accomplishes just that, and they plan to start testing it soon with Integer clients. Ultimately, CiBiC will serve as the research arm for this important component of Integer’s client services.

“Understanding behaviors in given categories of shopping is the core of what we provide, but we wanted to do it in a more rapid way and with a more standardized approach that has academic endorsement,” said Craig Elston, global chief strategy officer for Integer. “For us, it’s about building credibility.”

Associate Professor Ali Besharat

Integer’s extensive client roster includes just about every major consumer brand, from Starbucks to AT&T to Costco. Associate Professor of Marketing and CiBiC Co-director Ali Besharat considers the partnership a perfect match. The center focuses on three main pillars: student engagement, community connection and academic enhancement. Its collaboration with Integer checks off all three, he noted.

“Over the past two years, we figured out that one of the best ways to help the community and have predictable revenue is to build long-term partnerships,” Besharat said.

CiBiC was founded based on the notion that although companies often have access to extensive data—including everything from transactional reports to focus groups—they still don’t really know why consumers choose a specific brand, according to Besharat. In fact, when customers are surveyed about their buying decisions, many give reasons that directly contradict what they actually end up doing.

Associate Professor Melissa Akaka

Enter Besharat and fellow CiBiC Co-director and Associate Professor of Marketing Melissa Akaka, who worked with Integer executives to develop the new model, which uses behavioral economics to conduct consumer insights research. Designed to discover exactly how shoppers go about making their buying decisions, it creates a “consumer journey map” that charts consumption behavior all the way from the initial need to final purchase.

“We’re not just looking at attitudes and perceptions but actual behavior,” Besharat said. “We look at how they process their decision, whether pricing has anything to do with it, which alternatives they consider and how they assess them.”

For their part, Integer executives see great value in the ability to offer clients these new market research capabilities.

“People tend to be irrational beings, and we’re putting some rationality to human behavior so we can leverage those findings to drive our clients’ business,” said Michael Glunk, Integer group director of insight and strategy.

Daniels graduate students will help implement the work in a variety of ways, including following customers through their shopping experiences, creating customer journey maps, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data and writing reports. These analyses will examine customers’ key decision trigger points, barriers to desirable behaviors and the effectiveness of various incentives and rewards. The field of consumer insights is a rapidly expanding one for which most business schools don’t provide training, according to Besharat. Only the Yale School of Management has a similar center. As a result, this type of hands-on training will be especially beneficial to Daniels students, he noted.

The model is still being refined, and, like so many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed its launch, but Integer executives, Besharat and Akaka are eager to get started.

Added Glunk, “By leveraging our understanding of human behavior, one could argue that it’s cross-cultural and cross-borders, and that’s why the partnership is really exciting because it adds the double validity of a strong agency that’s also infusing academic rigor and credentials.”