North Texas Daily

Think tank forms to track digital retail trends

Think tank forms to track digital retail trends

December 01
23:58 2014

Kayleigh Bywater / Intern Writer

Nestled in Chilton Hall, the students in the Global Digital Retailing Research Center spend their days studying consumer trends and focusing on global digital retailing. With companies such as Zales and Pier 1 Imports working alongside them, they are able to look further into digital retailing trends such as online pay and mobile shopping.

In order to further that research, the group formed a think tank with executives from large global corporations to have a firsthand look in the retailers’ minds.

Senior director Richard Last shared why he felt the think tank was a critical step in expanding the knowledge of the GDRRC.

“The GDRRC is a collaboration between industry and academics in order to advance the study of the global retailing industry research,” Last said. “The think tank is there to help the research center. The members will be able to identify and develop different views on trends, strategies and business models that will completely shape the future of the industry.”

Forming the think tank

The newly-formed think tank is an integral step in furthering the GDRRC’s past research. The center was created in spring 2013, so it is fairly new as well.

However, Haejung Kim, coordinator of Consumer Experience in Digital Environments research, said this was not an issue.

“Yes, the think tank is in its early stages,” Kim said. “However, that is nothing to worry about. We will make a natural progression and get to where we need to be sooner rather than later. Technology progresses every day, and so will the think tank.”

The think tank is made up of 10 executives from different companies around the country. Four of the executives are members who have worked with the GDRRC before from JCPenney, CosmoProf (a branch of Sally Beauty), Pier 1 Imports and Zales Corporation. The other six members are from other companies in the United States.

“The reason that these companies decided to join the think tank was they all just love the industry,” Last said. “We all just want to help further accelerate the growth of the industry through research, exchange of information and talent development.”

The think tank was created primarily to meet four goals, Last said. Members wanted to gain global discovery so they could become more familiar with the field on a global scale, disseminate information that they have gathered, develop talent in students so that they can go on in the field and research more, and give excellence awards.

“We really hope to be able to perform research on issues that will advance the retail industry and the growth of the digital retailing,” Last said. “With all of the executives from this diverse set of companies, we will be able to reach our goal faster and more efficiently.”

Thousands of miles apart

Even though the group will be able to communicate via email and phone calls, Last said it was hard to get all 10 members to meet at the same time.

“We will have one person in New York, one in Austin and one in Boston,” Last said. “It is pretty difficult for all of us to meet face to face at the same time. The think tank is one more thing these people have to do, even though they are already running a company. However, the reason they do it is because we all share the same passion of e-commerce.”

The think tank plans to meet for two virtual meetings per year, one in April and one in October.

However, all members are invited to events that the School of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism puts on, such as the lecture series.

“Even though we have to discuss everything over email or chat rooms, I feel that will not hinder us at all,” Last said. “The main thing is that we just get everything done that we need to get done.”

The growth of digital retailing         

With this being the first interdisciplinary center in the United States that is dedicated to only digital retailing, those involved are able to focus on the changes and expansion of digital retailing.

“Digital retailing changes drastically all the time,” Last said. “We started out with dial-up modems, and now we are able to buy whatever we want in a matter of seconds on our phones. Social media is growing every day. It is crazy to see the changes, and the think tank is going to be able to follow those changes as they are happening.”

The think tank will also aim to provide students with more opportunities to grow in their knowledge and experience of digital retailing.

Digital retailing senior Kelsey Henry said she was very excited to be able to participate in the program.

“The think tank allows us to generate global and perspective views on the current and future state of digital retailing,” Henry said. “It is going to connect retail and industry thought leaders with UNT researchers and the students. It will be an incredible resource for networking and overall knowledge.”

Both Kim and Last agree the think tank will benefit the GDRRC and the School of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism. They will be able to not only expand their knowledge on the world of digital retailing, but also teach the next generation of digital researchers.

“With this group, the center will be able to focus on what is important to us,” Last said. “The think tank is more than just a group of people studying trends. It is the gateway in to the growth of the world of digital retailing.”

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