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Using purchase history to identify customer “projects”

A Research Opportunity from the

Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative

Webinar: Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 12pm Eastern /9am Pacific 

Whether it is gathering ingredients for a special meal or assembling the tools and supplies needed for a craft project, customers frequently purchase a collection of products that they need to complete a specific project. One might expect that when a consumer is in the midst of such a project, she will be more open to product suggestions that might help shape her plans and achieve her goal in a satisfactory manner. Yet today’s marketers have few tools to help identify collections of products that are associated with projects, or customers who seem to be engaged in such an activity. Behavioral customer segmentations are typically static and basket analysis seldom straddles multiple purchase occasions that might be associated with the same project.

The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative is pleased to announce a rich data set from a Fortune 500 Specialty Retailer that will allow researchers to study this problem. The data set contains 60,000 customers along with all the individual items each customer purchased over a 24-month window. In addition to purchases, the dataset includes detailed product hierarchies and product attributes, store/location information, and email campaigns by the firm to the households. While many researchers could provide basic segmentation strategies, the corporate sponsor seeks novel approaches to segmentation which recognize customer needs change over time, people consume bundles of products for “projects”, and that this can be identified by the items in each customer’s shopping cart.

In addition to the primary research question, the sponsor is open to proposals on other avenues of research utilizing this detailed purchase and direct marketing history. These avenues could include: product recommendations, product cross-sell/promotion analysis, geographic purchasing habits, or other analysis.

To learn more about the data and business context, interested faculty and doctoral students can attend a live webinar on May 28th at Noon US Eastern Time. During the webinar, details of the data will be described and executives from the project sponsor will be available for Q&A. The webinar will also be archived for those who can’t attend live.

After the webinar, interested researchers can submit proposals online through the WCAI Propopsal Submission Portal by June 11th to receive access to the data. Proposals will be evaluated based on their potential for academic contribution and the researcher’s ability to address issues of strategic importance to the program sponsor.

Researchers are encouraged to review proposal submission guidelines and FAQs before submitting their proposal. Additional questions on the data or the process can be directed to

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