Funded Research


Advance the Field with Your Research


The Morrison Family Center for Marketing Studies and Data Analytics is endowed by Donald and Sherie Morrison to promote the study and dissemination of knowledge in marketing studies and data analytics.

Grants are awarded to proposals that show strong publication potential to advance this field. All applications are reviewed by the faculty director and peer experts, and selected projects will be notified. If you are considering submitting an application, please prepare the following:

  • A current CV for all researchers involved;
  • A brief research proposal, which must include the research question, methodology, data source (if applicable) and academic contribution; and a budget

If you have further questions, please email all queries to
Eleanor Garibay at

The Long-term Effects of Price Promotions on Consumer Behavior: Evidence from A Field Experiment on Alibaba

By Hengchen Dai

We study how promotions affect consumer behavior on an online retailing platform in the long term. We focus on a specific promotion: offering consumers a coupon for products that have been in their shopping cart for more than one day. In a randomized field experiment involving more than 100 million customers with Alibaba Group—China’s largest e-commerce company—we randomly assigned half of eligible customers to a treatment condition where they might receive promotions for products in their shopping cart, while the other half of eligible customers did not receive coupons. We document unintended consequences of this promotion program during the month following our treatment period. On the positive side, our promotion program boosted consumer engagement, increasing the daily number of products customers viewed as well as customers’ daily purchase likelihood on the platform during the post-treatment period. On the negative side, we find that our promotion program intensified strategic consumer behaviors in two ways. First, receiving our promotions in the treatment period increased the proportion of products that consumers added to their shopping cart upon viewing them in the post-treatment period, possibly due to customers’ anticipation of promotions targeted at products in their shopping cart. Second, receiving our promotions in the treatment period lowered the price customers paid for a product in the post-treatment period. This effect holds for products that did not offer shopping-cart promotions, suggesting that prior use of shopping-cart promotions made people more price sensitive and trained them to search for other promotion mechanisms beyond shopping-cart-specific promotions. Importantly, both the positive and negative long-term effects spilled over to sellers on the same retailing platform that did not previously offer promotions to consumers. Our findings suggest that price promotions may change expectations and reference points, which can further produce both a positive long-term effect on consumer engagement and a negative long-term effect on strategic behavior. We discuss the practical implications of our findings for platforms and retailers. Read the publication.

The Value of Pop-up Stores in Driving Online Engagement in Platform Retailing: Evidence from a Large-scale Field Experiment with Alibaba

By Hengchen Dai

Short-lived and experiential-oriented pop-up stores have become a mainstream retail strategy. We provide the first causal evidence on how pop-up stores affect consumers’ subsequent behaviors. In a randomized field experiment involving approximately 800,000 consumers with Alibaba Group—China’s largest e-commerce company—we randomly assigned consumers to either receive a message about an upcoming week-long pop-up store event organized by Alibaba (the treatment group) or not receive any message about the event (the control group). For brands that participated in the event and non-participating brands in the same product category, we track consumers’ searches and purchases at these brands’ online stores on Alibaba’s retailing platform ( We find that our messaging treatment increased foot traffic to the pop-up store and, more importantly, online traffic to participating brands’ Tmall stores. Using WiFi tracking technology to track customer foot traffic, we causally estimate that visiting the pop-up store significantly increased consumers’ searches and purchases at participating brands’ Tmall stores during the post-opening period. New consumers showed a larger relative increase in online activities after receiving our messaging treatment, as compared to existing consumers. Furthermore, from a platform perspective, we find that our messaging treatment increased consumers’ searches and purchases at non-participating brands’ Tmall stores, which was driven by the positive spillover effects of actually visiting the pop-up store on consumers’ online engagement with non-participating brands. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings for omni-channel retailing.

In a given day, people make decisions about what tasks to pursue in order to reach their goals. These tasks can differ in terms of length and difficulty with some tasks taking more time, like writing a paper, and some taking less time, like answering an email. Given that their tasks are often not equal, how should people order their tasks throughout the day in order to increase their persistence and reach their goals? Prior research on the goal gradient hypothesis has suggested that people are more motivated as they move closer to their goal (Kivetz, Urminsky, & Zheng, 2006). However, is their motivation influenced more by the absolute progress they make (e.g., completing 70% of a task) or on the discrete number of subgoals they complete (e.g., completing 2 out of 3 subtasks)?

Goal Maintenance: A Distinct and Vivid Pre-Goal Self Predicts Post-Goal Maintenance

By Elicia John  |  Suzanne Shu  |  Hal Hershfield

We develop and test a theory of goal maintenance that posits that individuals who achieve a life-changing goal — such as getting out of debt, becoming sober or losing a substantial amount of weight — are more likely to maintain the progress achieved during goal attainment if they psychologically distance themselves from their pre-goal self and routinely engage in activities that activate memories of their past, less-flattering self. This new model is an extension of self- discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987), as it relates discrepancies in self-state representation to motivation and intertemporal behavior. We posit that the accessibility of a prior self- discrepancy, when activated, will continue to elicit emotions that motivate behavior of the current, improved self. We are currently applying this model of goal maintenance to weight- loss maintenance. Through five studies, we explore whether accessibility and perceived psychological closeness (distance) of the overweight past self predict successful weight maintenance after a weight-loss goal has been achieved. Study 1 revealed correlational evidence that weight maintainers are more likely to see themselves as psychologically distant from their past, overweight selves and more likely to activate memories of their past, overweight selves. Study 2 provided evidence that manipulating the vividness of the past, overweight self activates implicit goal-maintenance behavior conducive to sustaining weight loss. Using natural language-processing analysis, Study 3 demonstrated that those more successful in weight loss and maintenance focus less on the future and use more discrepancy language than those who are less successful. Studies 4 and 5 provided preliminary evidence that constant reminders of a past, overweight self over 4- and 12-week periods, respectively, may lead to more successful weight maintenance over time among individuals who recently met a weight-loss goal.