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Conducting field research in retail stores: A meandering path to a successful research project

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This case study follows the sometimes meandering path of a team of international academics conducting field research in retail stores. Field studies in retail stores are rare because the potential for disruption to trade is generally not tolerated by retailers nor are the benefits to the retail industry well understood. Research into retail, marketing, product testing, advertising and promotion, therefore, is most commonly undertaken externally via focus groups and panels, exit interviews, analysis of scanner and point of sale data, observation, and laboratories with simulated shopping and surveys. Here, we record the experience of conducting field research to assess consumers’ perception of merchandise displays, using eye tracking technology. Applying concepts from sociology and anthropology, we explain and analyse the pathways, obstacles, facilitators and supporters that we encountered on our way to completing successful field experiments in retail garden centres. Commencing with a review of field studies in retail stores, we walk through the phases of the project, including the reflections of team members. We conclude with a discussion of the findings and the implications for other academics wishing to undertake studies in retail stores.
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Keywords: eye-tracking; field research; research methods; retail stores

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Deakin Graduate School of Business,Deakin University, Elgar Road, Burwood, Burwood 3125, Australia 2: APRR, Michigan State University, 309 Communication Arts, East Lansing 48824, USA 3: Department of Horticulture,Michigan State University, A288 Plant and Soil Sciences Building, 1066 Bogue St., East Lansing 48824, USA

Publication date: 01 May 2013

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