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Darla Moore School of Business

Ph.D. marketing candidate uncovering why consumers make purchasing decisions from a numerical standpoint

July 16, 2020

Moore School Ph.D. student Gustavo Schneider wants his current and future research to benefit both businesses and consumers.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing, it was easy for Schneider to decide to focus his Ph.D. in business administration from the Moore School in marketing as well, but he decided to focus specifically on consumer behavior for his research.

“I really like trying to uncover the reasons underlying consumer decisions, the ‘why’ behind the behavior,” Schneider said. “I believe that consumer research can be very impactful not only for companies, but for consumers themselves and also policy makers. When companies understand why consumers behave the way they do, they can better frame their offers to attend their public desires and needs, for example, how to optimize product assortment. Similarly, when policy makers understand why consumers behave in a way that is not beneficial, policy makers can help develop better policies and programs to help consumers reach their goals, for example, how to increase retirement savings.”

Schneider’s dissertation research focuses on the influence of numerical information on consumer judgment and decision-making.

“I was always intrigued about why consumers behave the way they do,” he said. “After joining the [Moore School’s Ph.D.] program, I decided to delve into this topic because I wanted to learn better how consumers process numerical information in the marketplace.”

Numbers are everywhere, Schneider explained. Product attributes, product price, membership plans and forecasts are all communicated in numerical forms. Schneider wants to understand and describe the way numerical frames in product markets influence buying decisions.

“For example, when [consumers] buy ice cream, the ice cream quantity can be framed in different units, for example, 16 ounces versus a pint, which is basically two different ways to convey the same information,” Schneider said. “Sometimes, consumers will make different decisions depending on how this information is framed.”

Schneider said that he hopes the application of his research will be two-fold. He wants to aid businesses in “optimizing the attractiveness” of their product while simultaneously helping consumers understand how their awareness of their preferences for certain numerical frames may benefit or harm their purchasing decision goals.

Schneider earned his previous degrees at schools in Brazil but chose to come to the Moore School in Columbia, South Carolina, because of the program’s emphasis on research and the reputation of its Ph.D. program. He said the program provides a setting that encourages “students to thrive and pursue their goals.”

“The program offers all the tools needed for the students to succeed,” Schneider said. “But one great thing here is the environment. The way people care for each other, students and professors, is not something I was expecting before joining a Ph.D. [program]. The environment is extremely friendly and supportive, you feel like everyone wants to see you succeeding, and this is very comforting and motivating. The great environment motivates me to try to get better and deliver more every day.”

Schneider added that he has learned the value of perseverance during the course of the Ph.D. program. As an aspiring researcher and professor, he said he has realized that an academic career can be challenging at times.

“Many times your research ideas do not work out, and you need to come up with new ones,” he said. “When everything works out, you still can be rejected if others do not find the idea to be interesting and relevant. So, the most valuable thing I’ve learned in these years [in the Ph.D. program] is to persevere and not give up when facing challenges. We need to be prepared to start over when things go wrong, and to stay focused on things that go right.”

Hoping to join the faculty at a research-focused institution once he graduates with his Ph.D. in May 2021, Schneider said he wants to have a positive impact on the marketing research field. He also hopes to become a mentor to his future students and help them find the means to reach their career goals, as his professors have done for him.

-Erin Mooney


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