Customer Interface Laboratory
At Indiana University's Customer Interface Laboratory, Kelley School faculty and graduate students conduct cutting-edge research on in-store marketing, electronic commerce, and retail technology issues. The laboratory uses sophisticated technologies, including virtual reality simulations of the retail store and computer-assisted video tracking, to study shopper behavior. Realistic images of products and store aisles can be displayed on desktop monitors, large-screen flat-panel displays, a panoramic dome, or virtual reality goggles that create a totally immersive shopping environment. A six-lens video camera and computer vision software allow Kelley researchers to capture a 360-degree view of the retail store and track customer shopping patterns. The lab also includes new customer interface technologies, including computer kiosk, digital signage, directional audio, and hand-held shopping devices, so researchers can investigate how technology will change the way manufacturers and retailers interact with customers in the future.
Dr. Raymond Burke, E.W. Kelley Professor of Business Administration and Director of the Customer Interface Lab, discusses the benefits of using virtual reality simulations in marketing research. "The goal of the marketing research application is to accurately simulate the physical store and test customers' reactions to new products, product assortments, prices, packaging, and merchandising. Virtual shopping simulations allow us to capture the realism and complexity of the physical store. Unlike traditional laboratory research methods, such as focus groups, surveys, and concept tests, we can test new ideas in a cluttered, competitive environment and collect detailed information on the shopping process. The new model allows much greater control, speed, and efficiency than field experiments."
Dr. Alex Leykin, post-doctoral fellow at the Customer Interface Lab, works on applying computer vision technologies to customer tracking and activity analysis. The key motivation behind this research is to develop non-intrusive methods of visual surveillance that allow the research team to analyze the behavior of shoppers as they navigate through stores and make their purchase decisions. "We focus on measuring not only the path that people travel in the store, but also how they allocate their attention to specific products, store signage, and promotional displays. Our goal is to understand both individual and group behavior, and the impact of shoppers' interactions with each other, sales associates, and the store environment."