The Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School has partnered with Retail TouchPoints and CashStar to identify a new profile of empowered and engaged digital shoppers.


Ram Janakiraman, a marketing professor and a Mays Research Fellow, was the lead researcher for the project. He analyzed survey data from Retail TouchPoints, the online publishing network for retail executives, to profile the influential “Brand Maven,” or enthusiastic brand advocate.

“It was good to get the reassurance that both digital and social media were the two big channels for consumers when it comes to engagement and interaction,” Janakiraman said. “I expected that people would prefer to use gift cards, but there was overwhelming evidence that digital technology is present throughout many transactions of retailers.”

The report, published by CashStar – a leader in prepaid commerce solutions such as branded gift cards – stands to influence the way retailers interact and view the impact of branded currency and behavior of usage. Its findings also explain how the relationship between a consumer and digital payment evolves, from the introductory point of giving or receiving a gift card to the transition into becoming a loyal customer.

According to Janakiraman, Brand Mavens are among us, with more than 53 percent representing the current shopping population and contributing approximately $1,800 of purchasing power annually through redeemable gift cards and loyalty credits.

Pleased with the collaboration efforts of Texas A&M University with CashStar and Retail TouchPoints, Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies, shared the impact of generating thought leadership. “By leveraging the unique analytical expertise of [our] faculty, the Center for Retailing Studies can help retailers identify their best customers or in this case, Brand Mavens, and quantify their financial value to a firm,” Hollinger said.

Last fall, the Center for Retailing Studies and Janakiraman partnered with Knights Apparel and Texas A&M University for the Back-to-College Roadshow promotional campaign, measuring the impact of social media engagement and evaluating sales of Aggie apparel at Costco Wholesale locations across the state.

According to Hollinger, partnerships like these can help “retailers better know where to invest their money to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness.”

Janakiraman agrees.

“As researchers, we take a lot of pride working through case studies, marrying practice with academia,” he said. “But each time I work with the Center for Retailing Studies, I learn a lot.”

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Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.