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Strome College of Business

Dive Deep into the Wonders of Customer Loyalty

Dr. Liu-Thompkins, Professor of Marketing, has bridged into the global business community by establishing the Loyalty Science Lab within the Strome College of Business. Her passion for understanding the human elements of consumer behavior combined with her interest in data and technology inspired her to dive into how brand and customer loyalty develop.

Dr. Liu-Thompkins' research into loyalty started when a local company, Outsite Networks (now part of PDI), reached out to her when she first joined ODU. The company provided loyalty program solutions to convenience stores and gas stations. It was looking for a marketing expert to help identify relevant consumer behavior metrics and establish the true impact of loyalty programs. Fascinated by the consumer psychology behind rewards and the wealth of data and insights from customer analytics, Dr. Liu-Thompkins eventually turned her collaboration with the company into a stream of research into loyalty programs and customer loyalty. Over the next 20 years, she collaborated with other companies on loyalty-related issues while publishing her research findings in top-tier academic journals along the way.

Fast forward to 2020, when an opportunity arose to create an entity to better engage the business community through research, Dr. Liu-Thompkins jumped at the chance, and Loyalty Science Lab was born. Describing the focus of the Loyalty Science Lab, she explains, "Academic researchers put a lot of time and effort into their work,. Unfortunately the really interesting findings and insights they create often end up not affecting business practice as much as they should, because practitioners often do not know the existence of these academic publications or do not understand the technical language. The creation of the Loyalty Science Lab is meant to bridge this gap by translating technical or complex academic articles from researchers into something much more useful and applicable for business practitioners. The Lab also collaborates with industry leaders to identify and answer important questions about brand and customer loyalty giving both researchers and businesses the opportunity to work together to improve our knowledge about customer loyalty."

Since its creation, the Loyalty Science Lab has created popular easy-to-understand loyalty-related articles based on scientific findings, with topics such as "What happens when people get closer to a reward?", "Do loyalty programs work?", "How to gauge loyalty program engagement?", and "How to measure customer habit strength". In addition, the Lab has carried out collaborative research projects with other loyalty researchers and companies. The Lab's mission has created positive resonance within the business community, as evidenced by an active advisory board of top executives from Visa, MasterCard, Teradata, Bond Loyalty, Meta, RBC Bank, and other companies.

Dr. Liu -Thompkins is constantly staying busy and learning more. She has been working on several projects that expand on different areas of customer loyalty. One project recently published in the Journal of Retailing examined the most impactful drivers in a consumer's decision to express loyalty to a retailer. Another ongoing collaborative project with researchers at the University of Parma in Italy compares how consumers respond to economic vs. non-economic rewards and why the effects of rewards differ across cultures and customer lifecycle stages. Additionally, she recently received a grant from the Strome College of Business to research the growing popularity of voice technology such as Alexa and Siri and how the voice interface affects people's decision-making.

As a marketing professor in the Strome College of Business, her work and knowledge have benefited her students as she brings her experience with real examples and data. Applying the psychology of consumer behavior and analytical skills to actual business situations, she integrates hands-on projects with actual businesses where students work with real business data to identify problems and give fresh perspectives on solutions. Her students exercised their critical thinking skills while collaborating with companies such as Dominion Enterprises, Navy Exchange, Norfolk Botanical Garden, Chartway Federal Credit Union, Plow and Hearth, and WHRO.

Dr. Liu- Thompkins's perseverance in expanding and disseminating knowledge through her research and teaching is inspiring. It will be exciting to see what she gathers from her upcoming projects and have them published for business practitioners to read and apply to their marketing strategy.

Learn more about the Loyalty Science Lab.

Visit Dr. Liu-Thompkins webpage.