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Indiana University Bloomington

Center for Education and Research in Retailing


More than 4,500 professionals learn about the latest retailing research from Perspectives on Retailing, the Center for Retailing’s signature publication.

‘Shoppability’: The Science of Shopping

Ray Burke

E. W. Kelley Chair of Business Administration; Professor of Marketing; Director of the Customer Interface Laboratory

Raymond Burke

Consumers have a limited amount of time to shop. For retailers to remain competitive, they need to make the shopping experience as convenient and enjoyable as possible.”

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Manufacturers and retailers have been gathering data on what people buy for decades, but pioneers such as Ray Burke are using innovative techniques to understand the new frontier in retailing: how people shop.

Burke has made a science of studying what he calls “shoppability”—the capacity of the retail environment to convert consumer demand into purchase—using tracking devices, customer interviews, and 3-D simulations of retail environments.

Burke is E. W. Kelley Chair of Business Administration and founding director of IU’s Customer Interface Laboratory, where he and his colleagues use computer-generated store environments to measure how consumers respond to different shelf displays and signage. Then they apply their findings to a physical store, where video cameras and tracking technology capture how shoppers interact with real products and displays. Back in the lab, software anonymously analyzes the tracking data to identify points of engagement and friction for consumers—which helps retailers increase sales and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In one instance, a major apparel retailer invited Burke to use one of its stores as a lab. “We did some analysis and found that men have trouble putting outfits together,” he says. “Men also hesitate to pick up clothing items because they can’t fold them back the same way.” When the store began merchandising items together as solutions and folding items more simply, product display interaction increased by 85 percent and item sales increased by 40 percent.

Burke often partners with manufacturers and retailers to conduct his research, which he then publishes and shares at events such as Kelley’s annual Shoppability Workshops about consumer behavior. These conferences bring together researchers, blue-chip companies that have studied shoppability, and executives and managers who want to learn about this new way of approaching retailing.

“Consumers have a limited amount of time to shop,” Burke says. “For retailers to remain competitive, they need to make the shopping experience as convenient and enjoyable as possible.”

Read more about Ray Burke and shoppability.

Published April 12, 2011