NCCC65: Indicators of Social Change in the Marketplace: Producers, Retailers and Consumers

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCCC65: Indicators of Social Change in the Marketplace: Producers, Retailers and Consumers

Duration: 10/01/2021 to 09/30/2026

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Economic, technological, social, and environmental factors continue to create changes in the marketplace that impact producers, retailers and customers. Members of NCCC-065 are committed to fostering research and collaborations that will facilitate understanding and explanation of changes that impact the customer-marketplace interface. The focus of this committee will be on customer/retail experiences and how this social and technological interaction has caused changes in the marketplace. Also, the group plans to facilitate collaborations among researchers that will generate research in this area. In particular, participants in the NCCC-065 multi-state effort are positioned to address two of the North Central cross-cutting research areas, specifically: (a) Economic Development and Policy and (b) Social Change and Development. 

Background: A number of indicators such as the Main Street Index (Rural Mainstreet Economy, August 2020) have shown a slump in retail sales due to business shutdowns directly linked to COVID-19 with this trend expected to continue to impact retailers at a regional and national level. Wholesale inflation has brought about recessionary economic conditions that will certainly affect customer spending for some time to come (Mid-America Index, August 2020). These influences will result in a new economy that necessitates a dramatic change in the customer-marketplace interface. Thus, we will have an emergence of new and different customer/retail experiences to investigate.  

Return of Domestic Production: The return of domestic production is one outcome of the economic impact of COVID-19. Difficulty in manufacturing and production of product during the global pandemic has highlighted the challenges of being dependent on the importation of products. The pandemic has been a huge shock to the global supply chain forcing companies to really analyze the efficiency of their sourcing strategies (Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. is easier said than done, Harvard Business Review).  Domestic sourcing could allow companies to better respond to disruptions enabling improved resilience in the future. 

Technology Impact: Augmented reality applications and mobile technology impact business operations and customers. Social media impacts on retailers and customers. Constant changes in technology have not slowed, calling for study of changes to society. 

Demographic Trends: Continuing demographic shifts across the US, in terms of age (aging population, millennials) and ethnicity (Hispanics, other immigrants) impacting rural communities as well as urban communities and their demand for food and products with agricultural components. 

The focus of this committee will be on customer/retail experiences and how this social and technological interaction has caused changes in the marketplace. 

Changes in customer/retail experience: Social trends, such as customer demand for sustainably produced apparel and other products, the shifting needs of customer cohorts, and the demand for more customizable products are producing societal changes in need of investigation. In terms of social responsibility, there exists a shift in value perceptions of customers. Customers are more informed and issues around sustainability in the textile and apparel supply chain are gaining support. Research shows that supply chains are paying attention, but how customers place value needs further study. Additionally, more than ever before a “one-size fits all” mentality is no longer a viable retail strategy for satisfying customers.  Companies are faced with meeting more specialized demand by offering products that fit individualized needs in an ever-changing marketplace. 

The Committee: Over the next five years, the committee will identify research directions related to social change in the marketplace, offer training programs to increase rigor of research methods and analysis techniques, foster skills in grantsmanship, provide opportunities to build cross-disciplinary partnerships and develop mutual interests at the national level, share and critique new ideas and research results, and attract young scholars who have the skills and interest to investigate social change in the marketplace in the future. Researchers in the field have demonstrated a need for the programs we offer, as indicated by the strong attendance at every workshop and conference session NCCC-065 has conducted over the last 15 years. There is no other existing organization that will offer the array of sessions we provide and that can serve as a think-tank to generate new groups of cooperating scholars with interdisciplinary and multi-state focus on complex problems of social change in the marketplace. To address existing and emerging issues related to social change in the marketplace, NCCC-065 has focused on increasing the overall quality, quantity, and competitiveness of research related to social change in the marketplace by initiating systematic efforts to strengthen the research focus and infrastructure and foster collaborations. During the past few years of this project, targeted workshops and special conference sessions were held to assist scholars in increasing the quality, competitiveness, and collaborative efforts of their research. NCCC-065 collaborators have initiated research to address priority areas; nevertheless, with the ever-changing landscape associated with social changes in the marketplace, continuing effort to facilitate collaboration and promote enhanced quality and competitiveness of research is needed. As an outgrowth of these previous efforts NCCC-065 aims to focus its objectives for 2021 through 2026 on three key areas of social change in the marketplace. 

The first area is technology and its impact on customer/retailer/producer actions in the marketplace, especially due to the changing need to work from home and increased online shopping during the pandemic. Some of these changes might become the new norm in a post-pandemic marketplace. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the lack of technological and business knowledge and skills in rural businesses, the power of data in the redesign of a new equitable and sustainable marketplace, how virtual reality and augmented reality are reentering the retail landscape offering alternative shopping environments, and how marketers are coping with rapidly changing customer expectations for and use of technology in the marketplace. The second area is demographic-driven marketplace. How will the changing demographic and the associated narratives in society affect the structure and outcomes of distribution and consumption of agricultural products? Demographic changes such as increasing obesity, the changing view of aging, increasing number of ethnic minority customers, immigration and populations shifts (i.e., exurban and in-urban migration; relocation due to COVID-19), and the increasing prominent role of the LGBT group, necessitates large-scale research and collaborations at multi-state levels. The third area is sustainable consumption and production. The marketplace is experiencing a transition toward increasing environmental responsibility, which is one of the major challenges producers, retailers and customers are facing, especially in the context of various medical and natural disasters we have been experiencing in 2020. Many producers and retailers are modifying strategies to address society's demand for more responsible business practices related to the three components of sustainability: environmental, social and economic responsibility. Member efforts in this area will focus on cultivating and facilitating research programs that address these three components in relation to production and consumption. Rural and local sourcing will be investigated in relation to enhancing community development and resiliency. Linkages between family or rural businesses, local and regional markets, and digital or rural customers will be promoted in the face of pandemic and post pandemic short- and long-term effects. Addressing research questions focused on social change in the marketplace often requires complex research techniques and procedures as well as a collaborative model for conducting research. Thus, a multi-state effort engaging scholars representing a diversity of expertise will encourage the development of science-based information for customers, retailers, and producers and solutions beyond any one state. A multi-disciplinary approach is essential to understanding the complex problems arising from social change in the marketplace resulting from the pandemic or not. NCCC-065 members represent diverse areas of research and inquiry such as customer behavior, gerontology, e-commerce, rural retailing and entrepreneurship, textile recycling, body scanning for product development, aesthetics, and obesity stereotypes. Current members represent a range of institutional types and geographic regions. Also, members bring expertise regarding the effect of social change on different systems (e.g., family, community, economic, social). The area of interest, social change in the marketplace, is complex and requires a range of expertise and viewpoints in order to conceptualize research problems/questions, design appropriate research methods and analyses, and disseminate findings. Working collaboratively within the NCCC-065 multi-state committee and facilitating opportunities for interaction with the broader community of scientists working in this area will result in new research directions and greater depth in existing research topics. Specific issues and problems associated with social change in the marketplace may be unique to one state or locale, yet their resolution may apply regionally or nationally. Scientists' capability will be increased by a multi-state information exchange that facilitates the sharing of expertise and viewpoints, development of advanced skills in data analysis and collection, the creation of partnerships and collaborative relationships, and by the critique and review of new ideas and research results.

Objectives

  1. Address existing and emerging issues related to social change in the marketplace by: connecting those with mutual research interests, building research partnerships, and sharing and critiquing research ideas pertaining to the three areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  2. Develop and foster academic and industry relationships by engaging in research dissemination, idea exchange, and trend identification to help find grant funding, encourage new areas of scholarship, and develop cross-disciplinary collaborations pertaining to the three areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  3. Develop infrastructure (e.g., research groups, workshops, professional development opportunities) that can serve as a connector of scholars to varied projects (e.g., multi-state research projects, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and alternative information platforms), which facilitates the promotion of new collaborations, new methodologies, increased rigor, and impactful research pertaining to the three areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.

Procedures and Activities

The Committee will focus efforts to fostering research and collaborations that will facilitate understanding and explanation of changes that impact the customer-marketplace interface. The focus of this committee will be on customer/retail experiences and how this social and technological interaction has caused changes in the marketplace. Also, the group plans to facilitate collaborations among researchers that will generate research in this area. Participants in the NCCC-065 multi-state effort are positioned to address two of the North Central cross-cutting research areas, specifically: (a) Economic Development and Policy and (b) Social Change and Development. These areas will drive the activities undertaken to achieve the proposed objectives. These areas were identified in the Fall 2020 annual meeting. Common themes were identified and discussed, and consensus was obtained on three focus areas to move forward with for the renewal. Great energy and enthusiasm were expressed by committee members for the areas, as these are important issues, and they underlie the research of everyone in the group. Economic, technological, social, and environmental factors continue to create changes in the marketplace that impact producers, retailers, and customers.

 

Relating to Objective 1, to address existing and emerging issues related to social change in the marketplace with the goal of connecting individuals with common research interests, committee members will provide opportunities for researchers focused on the areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production to identify each other, collaborate on research projects, and build partnerships & networks that engage future researchers to explore these areas.

Relating to Objective 2, to develop and foster academic and industry relationships by engaging in research dissemination, idea exchange, and trend identification to help find grant funding, encourage new areas of scholarship, and develop cross-disciplinary collaborations, committee members will hold sessions, workshops, and round table discussions at professional conferences to share best industry practices, make available successful classroom pedagogy, and promote collaboration among researchers and academic teachers wishing to focus on the areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.

 

Relating to Objective 3, to develop infrastructure that can serve as a connector of scholars to varied existing and potential projects, this committee will promote the formation of research groups, hold workshops at professional conferences, and identify professional development opportunities to potential collaborators as a means of helping to develop new methodologies, to increase research rigor, and to make a more meaningful research impact within the areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • The focus of this committee will be on customer/retail experiences and how this social and technological interaction has caused changes in the marketplace. Outputs follow below.
  • Coordination of specific research, education and extension programs relating to technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  • Exchange of ideas and information relating to technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  • Generate interest in technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  • Promote collaboration in the areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  • Encourage academic and industry relationships in the areas of technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.
  • Identification of critical research and education issues relating to technology, demographic changes, and sustainable consumption & production.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

National workshops, special topic sessions, and round table discussions at professional meetings identified in the objectives and activities sections will increase linkages to scholars interested in social change in the marketplace and serve to disseminate information about this important area of research. Efforts will be made to ensure that information is disseminated to ethnically diverse and minority serving colleges and universities.

Organization/Governance

The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative.

Literature Cited

Lockdowns slow the economy and COVID-19 deaths (2020). Mid-America Index, August 1, 2020. Institute for Economic Inquiry, Creighton University. Retrieved online September 22, 2020 at https://www.creighton.edu/fileadmin/user/EconomicOutlook/PurchasingNewsMidAmAugustl2020.pdf

 

Rural Mainstreet economy index creeps up for August (2020). Mainstreet Economy, September 2020. Institute for Economic Inquiry, Creighton University. Retrieved online September 22, 2020 at https://www.creighton.edu/economicoutlook/mainstreeteconomy/

 

Shih, W. C. (2020). Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. is easier said than done, Harvard Business Review, April 15, 2020, https://hbr.org/2020/04/bringing-manufacturing-back-to-the-u-s-is-easier-said-than-done

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

CO, MN, WI

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Louisiana State University
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