Wake Forest School of Business opens new retail learning labs

Shoppers’ “conversion” offers new insights to retailers

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--()--As you push your grocery cart through the supermarket, you may be helping Wake Forest University School of Business students learn how to analyze and organize data that provides new, never-before-understood insights about shopper behavior to retailers. The School’s Center for Retail Innovation and the RockTenn – Lowes Foods Retail Learning Labs are providing real-time, real-world, in-store insights on shopping behavior.

The School and its partners will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the Retail Learning Labs on Friday, November 14, at 5 p.m. in Farrell Hall on the Wake Forest campus.

“It’s unique within an academic environment,” said Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation and professor of marketing. “Opening up a picture of what happens in the store in a way that hasn’t been done before, the RockTenn – Lowes Foods Retail Learning Labs will offer real-time learning and research opportunity for students and faculty, and key insights for the retail industry.”

The RockTenn – Lowes Foods Learning Labs are set up inside 10 Lowes Foods stores across North Carolina. State-of-the-art technology detects smartphone signals and tracks shoppers’ movements through the store, noting where they stop and think over a purchase, as well as which merchandising and promotions catch their attention and spark a purchase. Because it can also link up with the store’s loyalty card, the Retail Learning Labs can offer critical data about how in-store stimuli change purchase behavior, as well as a number of other important analytics never before captured in a live store environment.

“The ability to determine whether a product display can drive an in-store purchase, or watching whether shoppers consider an item because of a certain promotion can help retailers be more effective,” said Jon Kramer, vice president - marketing for RockTenn Merchandising Displays. “It is this real-time data delivered by the learning lab that makes it a real game-changer for retailers and vendor partners.”

The Retail Learning Labs aren’t just an opportunity to identify shopper traffic patterns through the store, but also a new way for Wake Forest students and faculty to research behavior, gather real-time data and analyze the results to provide actionable consumer insights.

“Clients have access to valuable shopper information through the Retail Learning Labs’ connection with retailers,” said Angie van der Merwe, a second year MBA student at the School of Business who helped set up the Retail Learning Labs. “The Center for Retail Innovation, along with its analytic partners, provides insights based on shopper behavior as a result of in-store stimuli – which will provide valuable insights into performance of brand promotional programming.”

Van der Merwe and Bill Ballard, another second year MBA student at the School, completed an internship with the Retail Learning Labs this summer. The students assisted with the collection, structuring and reporting of data and have been gathering baseline data since August. Later this month, Wake Forest Master of Arts in Management students will examine the raw data, organize it, extract information, and provide strategic insights as part of their course work.

“At Lowes Foods, we have embarked on an exciting journey of re-branding our stores to create a differentiated grocery shopping experience,” said Michael Moore, Lowes Foods chief marketing officer. “Hosting the Retail Learning Labs and utilizing new technology to augment our guest insights will help us more completely understand how we can best serve and delight our guests.”

The new technology tracks smartphone signals, giving each store visitor a unique, anonymous identifier at every visit. In the future, consumers will also be able to download an app to receive special in-store offers while they are shopping. Instead of a general coupon push via email or text to a smartphone, these offers will be location-specific to store displays or products.

Research in the labs can last 8-12 weeks per test, and offer brands, faculty and students an opportunity to test variables during that time. Through a test/control store research design, retailers will be able to view shopper behavior, understand what’s working and what isn’t and adjust accordingly.

“Having this real-time data for our students and faculty makes this a huge win. They will gain current, real-world insights from their data analysis which gives the students hands-on experience before they graduate, and provides faculty with new research opportunities,” said Beahm. “Other schools have been buying data that is several years old, and for thousands of dollars. At Wake Forest, we are breaking new ground in business analytics with these Retail Learning Labs.”

About the Center for Retail Innovation (cri.business.wfu.edu)

Opened in 2012, the Center for Retail Innovation is the newest academic center from the Wake Forest University School of Business. In just two years, the Center for Retail Innovation has become one of the nation’s leading resources for faculty- and student-led academic and practitioner-oriented learning, helping shape the future of retail. Through a unique combination of education, innovation and collaboration, the Wake Forest Center for Retail Innovation provides unparalleled opportunities for both academia and industry today.

About Wake Forest University School of Business (business.wfu.edu)

The Wake Forest University School of Business offers undergraduate programs in finance, accounting, mathematical business, and business and enterprise management, and graduate programs including a Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Accountancy and Master of Arts in Management. Our programs are consistently ranked among the world’s best in surveys by U.S. News & World Report, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Economist, Forbes, and the Financial Times. Wake Forest MBAs who sat for a Six Sigma green belt certification exam in 2011 and 2012 had a 100% pass rate. Wake Forest accountancy graduates earned the highest passing rate in the nation on the CPA exam last year and have maintained the top CPA exam pass rate among universities with accounting programs for 11 of the past 15 years.

About RockTenn Merchandising Displays

RockTenn Merchandising Displays is committed to providing best-in-class solutions that achieve brand, shopper and retailer objectives at the lowest total cost. We deliver promotional and permanent merchandising programs including design, manufacturing, fulfillment and distribution services to top consumer product companies and retailers. As the leading point-of-purchase display company in the U.S., we offer an unmatched level of capabilities across the full spectrum of in-store marketing. For more information, please visitwww.rocktenndisplays.com.

About Lowes Foods, LLC.

Lowes Foods, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alex Lee, Inc. Founded in 1954, Lowes Food Stores, LLC employs nearly 9,000 people and operates over 100 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The company is committed to offering fabulous fresh foods and delivering personal attention to each of its customers. Locally owned and operated Lowes Food, LLC is committed to buying local products and supporting local suppliers. They offer programs such as Lowes Foods To Go, a personal shopping service as well an online meal planner that focuses on saving people time and money. Information about these programs and other services offered by the company may be found at www.lowesfoods.com or by following Lowes Foods on Facebook or Twitter.


Wake Forest University School of Business
Stephanie Skordas, 336-758-4098

Release Summary

Wake Forest University School of Business students analyze and organize data that provides new, never-before-understood insights about shopper behavior to retailers.


Wake Forest University School of Business
Stephanie Skordas, 336-758-4098