Inspiring students to re-think marketing for the digital economy

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Industry-University relationships can be very complex, yet at Regent’s University London (RUL), we are very proud to report on the success of our first joint SAS-RUL project.

In June 2016, as part of SAS Academy activities at Regent’s, I started a research collaboration with Mike Turner and Neil Griffin from SAS. For 2016-17, students were asked to investigate consumer behaviour in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT). We recognised IoT not just as a major disruptor of business, but also as a rich source of valuable data; data that could better help us understand our customers, their patterns of behaviour, their processes and more. We held several meetings with participants from Regent’s and SAS, along with Andrew Caleya Chetty from Thingful.net. Every meeting was inspiring, with plenty of discourse and a wealth of ideas shared on the topic. Eventually, we defined three stages for the SAS-RUL project.

The first stage

The first stage involved students developing research proposals as part of my Research Methods Module in the MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics programme for the Autumn term (September-December 2016). In agreement with SAS, we decided to focus on the retail industry, specifically on grocery stores and supermarkets. Students were asked to conduct academic and industry research to discover how grocery stores and supermarkets could gain competitive advantage using customer data collected from the IoT.

This proved to be a very challenging project for students, as it was difficult for some to balance academic rigour and the commercial value of their proposals. Student groups presented their projects to a SAS panel and received feedback. The panel unanimously recognized the proposal presented by students Ashley Arnold, Darya Ahadpour Khaneghah, Matilde Massacesi and Joanne Wang was the "Best Research Proposal Presentation." They agreed that the students’ work was of such a high standard that it could be presented, unchanged, to potential industry clients. It should be noted that, besides being delivered in a very coherent and structured format, it reflected an important academic and industrial balance, richly comprehensive and relevant to the commercial world.

The second stage

The second stage of the project required students to submit individual research reports reflecting on the feedback provided, with the collection of primary data to test their proposal and statistical analysis of their findings using SAS Enterprise Guide. The top five reports were selected and sent to SAS consultants for their consideration:

  • The Effect of Social Media Advertising on Customer Engagement by Athena Stylli
  • Gamification Impact on Brand Loyalty by Audrey Vanderoost
  • Internet of Things for Food Safety Management by Charlotte Nielsen
  • Improving Customer Engagement Using the Internet of Things via In-Store Mobile Apps by Joanne Wang
  • Food Waste Reduction with the IoT by Patricia Barzotti

After evaluating the projects, Mike shared these comments:

“I would like to say that the effort and quality of work the students have completed is excellent and I enjoyed reading through the different reports and ideas. There is a lot of potential in many of the ideas presented and each of them has strong merit in its own right. As with all things, however, there has to be a winner and based on the submitted material. Both Neil and I agree that the Food Waste Reduction with the IoT idea submitted by Patricia Barzotti stands out. The ideas submitted by Charlotte Nielsen and Joanne Wang are also both outstanding ideas and we would be happy to recommend them as well.”

The winner and runners-up received formal recognition, prizes and the opportunity to pitch their proposals to SAS’s client, ASDA.

You can learn more about the students’ ideas presented to ASDA in the following link:


The final stage

The final stage, the students presented their ideas to ASDA as a consultancy team. Although ASDA was interested in all three proposals, they selected one to be conducted as part of the students’ consultancy project at Regent’s. Congratulations to all the students and especially to Joanne, Patricia and Charlotte!

I really appreciate SAS for their support; it has been very rewarding for the students and everybody involved. And yes, we are running this model again for the new academic year (2017-2018). I’m already working with my colleague, senior lecturer John Saint, to improve the linkage between my Research Methods module and his module on Data Analysis (both using SAS Enterprise Guide). We are both very excited for the consultancy projects that may come from this, and the enhanced student experience it will provide.

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About Author

Anabel Gutierrez

Principal Lecturer, Digital Marketing and Business Analytics

Dr Anabel Gutierrez is Principal Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Business Analytics at Regent’s University London and has over 25 years of academic experience that she has balanced with industry practice gained from consultancy work in IT projects for both private and public sector. Dr Gutierrez has also experience in curriculum development and recently led the MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics development and validation at Regent’s University London. Currently she is SAS Academy Coordinator at Regent’s and member of the SAS UK & Ireland Academic Advisory Board.

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