Interview with Tuck Professor Anne Ter Braak

DBJ sat down with Professor Anne Ter Braak, currently a visiting scholar at Tuck and an expert in retail. Anne Ter Braak earned a PhD in 2012 from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and a M.S. from Tilburg University. She also holds a M.S. from the Aston Business School, in the United Kingdom. When she is not at Dartmouth, she serves as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium. Her current research interests in retail are diverse and include: the use of hand-held scanners for assisting consumers in purchasing decisions, how smell can be used to increase sales for specific products and the use of mobile technology to provide promotions to consumers in real-time.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): What inspired you to come to Tuck?

Anne Ter Braak (ATB): Tuck has great expertise in my primary interest, which is retail. I also have had contact with Tuck professors at conferences, at Leuven and at Tilburg, which helped me decide to come to Dartmouth. I also like New Hampshire and the experience of living for three months in a small New England town.

DBJ: What are some similarities and differences in retail between Europe and the U.S.?

ATB: I notice related trends in supermarkets with a focus on convenience, premium products, and health and wellness initiatives. People here and in Europe want to dine more at home, using premium but convenient products. As to differences, private labels are still more popular in Europe than the U.S., and also in Europe discounters are more popular, with 20% market share.

DBJ: Could you explain your interests in mobile retail?

ATB: I am interested in the use of self-scanners in retail. Specifically, one of my projects that I am working on here at Dartmouth, focuses on the use of hand-held scanners that can be used by consumers in grocery stores to scan the products they would like to purchase during the shopping trip. The use of a self-scanner will make people aware of the prices and total amount they are spending in real-time. Hence, we want to study whether using a self-scanner will make them spend more or less, whether the consumer may buy more private labels, more promotions etc. We are also interested in determining who would use a self-scanner and when.

DBJ: What is one difference in America versus Europe in terms of how people use self-scanners for retail?

ATB: Actually, I don’t really expect to find a difference. I think there is a trend to introduce more digital and mobile devices into the consumer experience both here and in Europe. In general, the use of mobile technologies opens up many opportunities. For example, I recently read that Kroger is now using digital shelf tags which will allow them to quickly change prices, but even to remind the consumer of a purchase to be made, and to provide individually tailored promotions and advertising to consumers via Bluetooth technology.

DBJ: What do you think is the future of mobile technology in retail?

ATB: Mobile technology such as smart phones will be critical. Shopping carts with a holder for phones will be available and common, as will super market aisles that light up to help a consumer find a product. Mobile technology will allow personalized, and real-time promotions to be pushed onto consumers.

DBJ: Do you see any issue with privacy violations with the use of digitized and mobile technology for retail?

ATB: We currently share information online with websites that keep our profiles, so this is the same thing. However, I think consumers should have the option to opt out. We should make sure that consumers understand how the technology offers value for them. Right now, we have offline and online shopping experiences but we usually cannot trace them to the same consumer. Mobile retail technologies will offer retailers the opportunity to connect online past purchases to the offline customer and hence real-time personalized promotions will be available.