Faculty research: Meet Jacob Suher

Please give us a brief overview of your academic and professional background.

I joined the School of Business at Portland State University in the fall of 2016. Prior to entering academia, I worked as a consultant and analyst for TNS Retail & Shopper and Kantar Retail. I developed new retail decision making tools and worked with international clients including Cannondale Bicycles, Clorox, Coinstar, Hewlett-Packard, Nestlé, Pringles, Samsung, and SC Johnson. At PSU, I teach Marketing Strategy and Marketing Analytics in the undergraduate program.

My research focuses on consumer-based strategy in the context of retail, food, and product marketing. My primary research interest is in-store decision making and the drivers of unplanned purchases. For example, my research answers questions like: What motivates consumers to make unplanned purchases? How can non-price signage influence the in-store path-to-purchase? My other research projects promote healthy food choices and environmental sustainability.

What do you enjoy most about teaching in The School of Business at Portland State?

The diversity of our amazing undergraduate students from Portland and beyond.

What are you passionate about in your work?

I am passionate about “letting knowledge serve the city.” For example, our Marketing Strategy class partners with Livelihood NW to work with a local small business — from food products to health services. It is always exciting and motivating to learn from and support our local entrepreneurs. 

In my research, I am passionate about taking the consumer’s perspective to develop marketing strategy. Listening to the consumer has led to exciting insights like when to use experiential signage in retail and how to communicate environmental sustainability innovations. For future research, I hope to collaborate with local entrepreneurs to create and test new retail innovations that meet consumer needs during this time of economic and behavioral change.

You recently wrote a journal article on the moderating effect of buying impulsivity on the dynamics of unplanned purchasing motivations. What are the business implications of your findings?

The findings present actionable tactics for grocery retailers to use dynamic messaging strategies to increase the relevance of retail communications. For example, the article addresses whether a shopper should receive in-store messages that are more experiential or more task-focused at the beginning of a shopping trip and how to change the messaging as a shopper makes purchases.

Importantly, our online grocery shopping studies provide evidence that correctly appealing to consumers’ changing in-store motivations can increase incremental unplanned purchasing. The rapid growth of online retailing and in-store technology such as digital displays and mobile shopping applications creates an unprecedented opportunity to find new ways to delight the digitally connected retail customer by appealing to their dynamic motivations.

What does “redefining business” mean to you?

Redefining business means learning and using business tools to actively change the future of business in the pursuit of positive social, ecological and economic impact.

When you are not teaching and researching, what do you do in your free time?

I spend my free time with my wife, Caroline, and grey tabby cat, Kat Moss. We love traveling to the Oregon coast for surfing, short walks on the beach, and fish and chips!

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