Christine Zeindler



A young couple enjoying holiday shopping outdoors

New UBCO research looks at how brand loyalty and attachment to retail spaces can impact shoppers.

Frosty mornings and twinkling lights are reminders that holiday shopping is just around the corner.

While online shopping was the norm last year, many people may be looking forward to heading to the malls for an in-person experience.

Annamma Joy, professor at UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management, researches consumer behaviour and branding. She recently co-authored a paper discussing what brings a connection to a favourite store and why consumers look forward to returning.

What role do you think retail spaces have in daily lives?

A person’s wellbeing is enhanced in places that make them feel at ease and content. Having a sense of belonging and a place where we fit is essential to our sense of community. Retail spaces can provide an opportunity to feel attached. They can be far more than mere places to shop.

Can you explain how people are initially drawn in?

First impressions are formed by what our senses such as sight, smell, touch and hearing tell us. Triggers such as design, merchandising and space layouts can seduce at first sight and nurture the relationship during future encounters. However, the key is to define the target consumer, because different groups will react differently. For example, some may enjoy simple spaces with clean lines whereas this may not resonate with others.

Once in a venue, what keeps a shopper browsing?

Engaging people’s creativity is often the next step in keeping consumers. Personalizing the experience and offering educational information may make the consumer feel more at home and valued. For example, highlighting staff favourites or giving back-stories about products can make the experience more engaging.

How do long-term attachments or brand loyalty occur?

Many different methods can be used to gain loyalty and this is dependent on the product type—strategies for the fashion industry may be different than that of food. Overall, the most successful organizations are those whose strategies are in line with their ideology and values, which can be highlighted through design, architecture or storytelling.

For example, a coffee chain that markets itself as sustainable may publicize the history of a particular coffee bean with photos and testimonials from the growers. This is an example of a market-driving orientation—the industry dictates what the consumer should purchase rather than relying on the consumer for the design of their products. Young customers like to be informed and demand knowledge. Savvy companies should try to empower them with enriching education.

An approach to keep a customer as they age is to offer different spaces that appeal to varying age groups. For example, the Reitmans Canada organization owns several store types—Reitmans, Penningtons and RW&CO—that attract different segments of the population.

Alternatively, larger department stores may accommodate different client groups by having mini-boutiques within one space.

The key is to know your customer and their preferences.

Are there benefits to changing favourite spaces?

It is inevitable that shopping patterns will change, whether due to store closures or individual preferences. Although this may be disappointing, it can also result in new learning opportunities, happy memories, inspiration and new social connections. Commercial spaces, in addition to offering merchandise, provide us with the opportunity to grow, develop routines and develop self-identity. 

Do you think people will develop favourite online shopping platforms?

This is an important question because the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online purchasing. This is the future of retail and new technologies have thrown a wrench into how we connect to retailers. It is hard to predict the degree of attachment people will feel towards virtual spaces. Perhaps, they will initially seek familiar markets and then branch out.

While artificial intelligence, the use of big data and algorithms hold promise for the future in terms of empowering consumers, they also have their downside. What is really interesting is the impact digital platforms have on purchasing behaviour. These have the potential to manipulate customers, who may believe they are making independent decisions, but really are being directed to certain retailers. While consumers have the ability to access useful information to make decisions they should be wary of online reviews, chats and testimonials.

We’ve learned that decision-making is constantly changing in this digital space and both the consumer and the retailer need to be on their toes.

Young woman tasting red wine in vineyard using digital tablet

New UBCO research shows that while younger consumers are interested in wine, their approach is different to past generations.

It’s wine bottling season and new research from UBC’s Okanagan campus shows that younger sippers should be inspired, rather than lectured, during their tasting experience.

The international study, published in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, found that millennials and generation z—those between the ages of 18 to 40—appreciate wine more when they define it on their own terms and with the support of technology instead of learning with traditional terminology and analysis.

“The traditional way of teaching wine appreciation using a verbal lexicon is turning off and boring young consumers,” says Annamma Joy, professor in the Faculty of Management and co-author of the study. “With their spending power, it makes sense for winemakers to adapt the experience to better engage them as new customers.”

She says that these findings provide key marketing insights to the $9 billion Canadian wine industry.

Dr. Joy and her colleagues from Cornell University first tested how a holistic tasting approach compared to a traditional one with young wine drinkers with an average age of 24. The traditional group analyzed the wine’s taste by deconstructing flavour profiles and writing detailed descriptions. On the other hand, the holistic group, learned to appreciate wine tastes by drawing images and discussing them. Both of the groups enjoyed learning about wine, but those who participated in the holistic group engaged in a deeper, more thoughtful way.

“While new consumers might find the analytical approach effective at teaching them how to differentiate tastes, the holistic approach allows them to create a more emotional connection to the wine—bringing meaning beyond the test environment,” says Dr. Joy.

The next research step was to determine what references these young consumers use for wine information, for both new experiences and follow-up education. Generational differences in wine education were analyzed using the digital platform, QUINI. The number of online interactions increased with younger generations—millennials (24 to 40 years) engage more than generation x (41 to 56 years) and baby boomers (57 to 75 years). Also, as generation z (6 to 24 years) consumers reach drinking age, their online activity increases. The researchers also noted that the type of information preferred differs between generations, with older ones preferring traditional education and newer consumers turning to experiences such as wine-tastings and wine tourism.

“Our research shows that younger consumers are interested in wine, but their approach is different than what their parents experienced. Making learning fun and using digital platforms can increase their appreciation of wine and provide a positive path to developing future wine consumers,” says Dr. Joy.

“Wine needs a great story to attract the millennials and younger generations. If you don’t have one, you may be left with sour grapes.”

The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration designation is intended to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and reviving ecosystems around the world for insects, plants animals and all other forms of life on the planet.

The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration designation is intended to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and reviving ecosystems around the world for insects, plants animals and all other forms of life on the planet.

Researchers offer ideas to reimagine, recreate and restore our relationship with the environment 

On World Environment Day (June 5), the United Nations will officially announce that the years 2021 to 2030 will be designated the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. This global designation is intended to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and reviving ecosystems around the world and moving toward a sustainable future.

UBCO experts are available to comment on how to restore and protect ecosystems, rewild gardens and create sustainable consumer behaviour to help achieve a greener relationship with the environment.

Ecosystem restoration

Dr. Adam Ford 
Assistant Professor, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science
Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology

  • Wildlife connectivity and road ecology
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Restoring wild food security
  • Indigenous-led restoration

Dr. Karen Hodges
Professor, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

  • Post-fire and post-logging ecosystem restoration
  • Grassland restoration 

Nancy Holmes
Associate Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

  • Using art to raise awareness of wild pollinators: Border Free Bees
  • Empowering communities to engage in solutions for habitat loss
  • Transforming urban sites into pollinator pastures 

Dr. Bob Lalonde
Associate Professor, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

  • Strategies to improve insect diversity in an urban setting

Dr. Astrida Neimanis
Associate Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

  • Water, wetland and oceans restoration
  • Human imagination of and relationships to damaged ecosystems
  • Arts-sciences collaborations on restoration

Dr. Rebecca Tyson
Professor, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

  • Restoring agricultural landscapes for wild bees

Waste management

Dr. Cigdem Eskicioglu and Dr. Abbas S. Milani
Professors, School of Engineering

  • Development of biodegradable single-use surgical gloves

Sustainable building practices

Dr. Lukas Bichler
Associate Professor, School of Engineering

  • Clean energy technology
  • Sustainable batteries

Dr. Solomon Tesfamariam
Professor, School of Engineering

  • Management of aging infrastructure
  • Building with sustainable products such as tall timber 

Sustainable living

Dr. Aleksandra Dulic
Associate Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

  • Media for social change
  • Sustainable water practices
  • Human-water relationships in the Okanagan
  • Indigenous-led restoration initiatives 

Dr. Annamma Joy
Professor, Faculty of Management

  • Pollution generated by wine and fashion industries
  • Wine and fashion industry sustainability

Dr. Nathan Pelletier
Assistant Professor, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management
NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability

  • Agricultural practices that rebuild healthy soil
  • Ecological impact of food production
UBCO experts comment on sustainability practices of eggs and chocolate (Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash)

UBCO experts comment on sustainability practices of eggs and chocolate (Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash)

Sustainability experts comment on the environmental impacts of seasonal treats

The arrival of spring and Easter is often celebrated with egg-containing delicacies and all-things chocolate. The grocery shelves overflow with these temptations without much thought of how they arrived and the consequential environmental cost. Experts from UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management offer insight into the sustainability of these products and how to purchase wisely.

Of the major sources of terrestrial animal protein, eggs are the most sustainable says Dr. Nathan Pelletier, assistant professor of biology and management

“Hens are very efficient at converting feed into animal protein,” he explains. “In comparison to other animal protein sources, almost the entire product is edible. This, along with a long shelf-life, means that egg waste is very low.”

Dr. Pelletier adds that sustainable egg producers efficiently use limited natural resources, such as energy and water while minimizing emissions. They also ensure hen welfare, fair prices for farmers and are mindful of the social acceptability of this form of farming.

As NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability, Dr. Pelletier is examining the potential benefits of net-zero energy housing systems for the hens and the use of scrubbers to recover nitrogen from poultry barn exhaust air. He’s also studying the implementation of renewable energy systems such as wind, solar and geothermal heat pumps on farms.

“Eggs are the most affordable source of animal protein, with an average Canadian consuming about 21 dozen annually,” he says. “Because they play an important role in food and nutrition security, it is important to continually evaluate and seek opportunities to improve sustainability outcomes.”

“I believe consumers can use their purchasing power to support social change,” says Dr. Eric Li, associate professor of management, referring to supporting fair-trade chocolate

He adds that the International Labor Organization estimates millions of child labourers work to produce everyday purchases such as coffee and cocoa and that almost 284,000 children between the ages of nine and 12 have been reported working in hazardous conditions on West African cacao farms.

“These children are exploited by being forced to work long hours with little or no pay, and have little rights and limited education,” he says. “Also, the ongoing deforestation due to the growing demand for chocolate will contribute to climate change-related issues.”

Dr. Li notes these practices are not ethical or climate-friendly. Rather, he suggests organizations that support sustainable standards pay workers a fair wage and maintain critical forest conservation areas. They should also reduce pressures to convert more forestland to cacao plantations, and provide social and economic benefits to local communities.

Dr. Li also advocates for buying fair-trade chocolate, which is produced without child or forced labour. For making informed choices, he recommends reading the annual Easter Chocolate Shopping Guide. Compiled by the Mighty Earth environmental advocacy group, the guide assigns ‘Good Egg’ and ‘Rotten Egg’ awards to companies on a range of social and environmental criteria that can impact purchasing decisions.

“If everyone takes small steps to gradually change our consumption behaviour and mindsets, we will be on the right track of building a better world.”

UBC experts discuss Earth Day relevant research. Photo credit: Lael Parrott

UBC experts discuss Earth Day relevant research. Photo credit: Lael Parrott

Almost 50 years ago, millions gathered to protest the negative impacts of industry and development on the world. Since then, the tradition has continued with Earth Day, a global celebration that is recognized by more than one billion people in 192 countries. It is a day of civic and political action to focus on environmental issues such as biodiversity, sustainability, pollution, climate change and clean energy.

The following UBC Okanagan experts are available to discuss their research around these issues:

Cigdem Eskicioglu
Associate Professor of Engineering

– treatment of biological waste
– renewable energy
– organic fertilizer

More info:

Greg Garrard
Associate Professor of Sustainability

– climate skepticism
– sustainability and culture

More info:

Karen Hodges
Professor of Biology

– ecology
– conservation biology
– predator-prey dynamics
– extinction risks
– species-at-risk legislation

More info:

Nancy Holmes
Associate Professor of Creative Writing

– Border Free Bees project
– pollinating insects
– habitat preservation

More info:

Nathan Pelletier
NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Chair in Sustainability
Assistant Professor and Endowed Chair in Bio-economy Sustainability Management

– sustainable practices in the agri-food industry

More info:

Rehan Sadiq
Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Engineering

– water supply systems
– infrastructure management
– environmental risk analysis
– lifecycle thinking

More info:

David Scott
Associate Professor, Earth Environmental and Geographic Sciences
Research Chair, Watershed Management

– hydrological effects of forest management and land use change
– effects of wildfire on hydrology and erosion
– effects of fast-growing timber plantations on streamflow
– environmental assessment

More info:

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

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