Professor at the Department of Marketing
"I am mostly interested in how consumer choices can be improved by removing imperfections in product availability and information. "
What is the main goal of your research?
I am mostly interested in how consumer choices can be improved by removing imperfections in product availability and information. These imperfections create enormous barriers. To give you an idea, the amount of resources required for distribution and availability of products is higher than the amount needed to manufacture them. I work on answering questions about how changes in retail productivity affect consumption variety and consumer leisure. Regarding information imperfections, I study the impact of search costs and the impact of branding on consumer decisions. This research is used to make statements about how the market changes in response to a reduction of search costs or in response to educating consumers about the equivalence of branded goods and private labels in certain categories. See for instance this press release (in Dutch).
How does your research contribute to help with societal problems?Peter Drucker, arguably the founding father of modern management, more than once summarized his thoughts about the concept of a firm as "the purpose of a business is to create a customer." Coming from a non-marketing guy, it must be true, right? Economies of scale in production not only bring low prices, but also physical separation between consumers and producers. My interpretation of Drucker's statement is that to create a customer, a business firm must not only offer a great product at a low price but also find a way to tell consumers about it and make the product available to them. From emerging markets, we know that there are important disadvantages to consumers from poor information and poor distribution, and here is where marketing and our understanding of its effects contributes to society.
What is your main motivation for your research?
Basically, I am just curious. My personal motive in doing research is to answer questions and contribute to developing knowledge about how markets work. This knowledge is meant for our students to advance themselves professionally, for firms to compete more effectively, and for regulators to protect consumer welfare.
Who is your role model?
There are many great academics, both in business research and in economics. About 6 years ago, I met Gary Becker, a Chicago economist and Nobel laureate. Professor Becker has shaped how social scientists and policy makers think about consumption decisions and households' allocations of time. There is a vast body of research on time use, labor supply, and home production by social scientists that traces back to Professor Becker's research. Thanks to his theories we can make predictions about how convenience affects consumers' choices (sometimes for the better, sometimes not). Consumers’ allocation of time is also a central problem to marketing practice. Many business firms compete on reducing the time consumers spend finding information and products. If you doubt this, just think about how you buy clothes nowadays, or how much time Amazon.com or Bol.com saves you in purchasing consumer durable goods. Going back to meeting him, Professor Becker just had the most open mind about marketing and branding, and had very useful feedback on a paper that I was collaborating on with people in Chicago. Meeting him made a big impression on me!
Expert & Expertise Bart Bronnenberg