Economist Andrew Sweeting at Duke University is researching the science and complexities of perishable goods markets, meaning markets for products with expiration dates, which includes tickets because they have to be used by a certain date. The overall aim of the research is to understand how sellers behave and how markets of these kinds of goods should be designed. Learn more in this Science Nation video.
Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation
According to a Cornell University professor of psychology, consumers found that satisfaction with "experiential purchases"--from massages to family vacations--starts high and increases over time. In contrast, spending money on material things feels good at first, but actually makes people less happy in the end. Hear more in this Discovery Files podcast.
Audio Credit: NSF/Karson Productions
Paul Torrens of Arizona State University is developing a synthetic laboratory populated with thousands of artificial agents to experiment with ideas and theories about crowd behavior and dynamics that would otherwise be impenetrable to academic inquiry. Read more in this Discovery.
Credit: Paul M. Torrens
The Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) of the Directorate for Engineering serves the entire foundation by fostering partnerships to advance technological innovation, and plays an important role in the public-private innovation partnership enterprise.
Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, has conducted research that shows that decision-making is simplified when a consumer considers a third, less attractive option.
Off to buy a new handbag and fabulous red shoes, or how about overalls and a riding lawnmower? Before going, a mood check for signs of despair and gloom might be in order because how a person feels can impact routine economic transactions, whether he or she is aware of it or not.
August 1, 2011
Science of Shopping: Cameras & Software That Track Our Shopping Behavior
Next time you go to a store, take a minute to look at all the things that are trying to grab your attention. With so many products available and so many stores and websites, how do you decide what to buy and where to shop? Whether it's convenience, good service or finding the best deals, store owners want to know what attracts you to their stores, and what it takes to keep you coming back. Turns out, there's a science to all this.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), computer scientists Rajeev Sharma, Satish Mummareddy and their colleagues have developed software that breaks down shopping behavior much like websites do. Sharma's company, VideoMining, uses overhead cameras to put together a top down view of how people shop and what they buy.
"Basically, what VideoMining does is use software along with cameras mounted on the ceiling of stores to track shoppers as they move around the store and create data that helps us understand how shoppers are shopping," explains Sharma. The software creates maps of a store's traffic patterns by digitally analyzing the video. Using the traffic data, VideoMining creates charts and graphs showing well travelled areas in a store and dead spots-–places people ignore. The software also can tabulate how long shoppers take before that "moment of truth" when they select an item to purchase. Cameras are positioned directly above and picture resolution is intentionally set low so all shoppers remain anonymous.
"You cannot identify individual shoppers," says Sharma. "The computer is actually watching the video and generating numbers that represent [each] shopper's behavior. It's all about capturing human behavior so you can really understand it over a long period of time."
The idea is to show retailers and manufacturers the best areas in the store to place products, and how to create a comfortable place for people to shop. "By providing the data to retailers and manufacturers," says Sharma, "they can customize and design the stores and the shelves and the products to match the shoppers' interest."
Sharma identifies trends. For example, people prefer wider aisles when they shop. Women take a lot longer to shop than men, and, except in a few cases, brand loyalty is not always strong. "What we're finding in some categories, people are going to the store and making up their mind right there. You can see people coming in, going between brands and picking up the product based upon price; based upon other attributes."
The software was initially created to monitor the elderly and disabled in their homes. Now it's keeping an eye on shoppers, giving businesses a scientific leg up in the rat race of figuring out how to best serve their customers and keep them coming back.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.