Design and Management Faculty Erin Cho Explores Retail and IT Convergence

In recent years, we have witnessed revolutionary developments in the convergence of information technology and retailing. Amazon’s Dash analyzes consumer purchasing histories to automatically reorder supplies of desired products; Yelp and Groupon incorporate GPS technologies to send coupons to shoppers when they’re in close proximity to relevant retailers; and True & Co and ThreadMason provide curated and customized garments by utilizing big data, body scan, demographic, and lifestyle information compiled and synthesized through advanced computing technology.

“The convergence with the information and communication technology is the most distinctive and significant phenomenon in the retailing industry today,” says Erin Cho, Associate Professor of Design and Management at Parsons School of Design. “In fact, retailing has been the space where the most exciting and disruptive innovations have been taking place, completely changing the way economic exchanges are organized and delivered for goods and services.”

However, despite the enormous impact of these applications, “relatively little attention has been paid to understanding how they would alter the consumer’s decision-making processes,” professor Cho says.

“While there have been many discussions among business and design professionals about how IRC would change the way consumers recognize needs, search for information, and evaluate alternatives,” she continues, “These discussions were mostly conceptual and at the aggregate level of society with little empirical evidence and validation.”

Now professor Cho is attempting to develop a better understanding of IRC through a new project with professors at Seoul National University and Ohio State University.

In “IT and retail convergence for sustainable consumer choices: Policy and Business Implications,” Cho and her colleagues will collect and analyze empirical data, including big data, experimentation, surveys, and qualitative methods, to investigate the way IRC has affected and will change consumer decision-making processes for specific retail consumptions.

“The results of this will help us construct the model of consumer IRC adoption and utilization that can guide retailers how to identify consumers’ IRC needs and to develop new business models in ways to enhance consumer adoption and utilization,” Cho says.

Through the project, Cho and her colleagues also aim to identify the aspects of IRC that require government regulation, particularly with regard to how the information collected from IRC should be managed and how transactions from inter-industry convergence should be monitored to protect and enhance consumer welfare.  

The three-year $220,000 project is funded by the Global Research Network Project and sponsored by the Korea Science Foundation.