Methods and techniques for consumer analysis

Teachers: 
Credits: 
6
Year of erogation: 
2021/2022
Unit Coordinator: 
Disciplinary Sector: 
Rural economy and evaluation
Semester: 
First semester
Year of study: 
1
Language of instruction: 

italian

Learning outcomes of the course unit

At the end of the course, the student must:
(1) have acquired the main knowledge and skills on the concepts of social and behavioral sciences applied to consumer study;
(2) being able to evaluate and debate case studies (e.g. scientific articles) that focus on consumer's food choices;
(3) being able to conduct a bibliographic review using different available sources;

(4) have acquired the basic principles and procedures to develop, conduct and analyze / interpret, independently, qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys in order to identify the main determinants of consumer choices;
5) knowing how to develop a tool for data collection in the context of qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys (questionnaire, outline for focus groups, etc.), relevant to the research hypotheses;
(6) know how to communicate in writing and / or orally the basic principles and procedures for developing and conducting consumer research.

Prerequisites

Propaedeutic courses are not formally required, but students should have a minimum knowledge of statistics (mean, median, standard deviation) and of the foundations of marketing.

Course contents summary

Students will have to consider the relationship between consumers and food and how the theories and methods of social and behavioral economic sciences can provide useful tools for understanding and addressing food choices.
The course will include the discussion of relevant and recent qualitative and quantitative consumer studies, at national and international level.

Course contents

• A Brief overview of the foundations of marketing; Market-oriented
• Environment and market segmentation;
• Needs and motivations;
• Product innovation and consumers'role
• Means-end chains;
• The marketing information systems and intro to marketing research;
• Bibliography research
• Principal methods and techniques of qualitative research (survey development, sampling, analysis and data interpretation);
• Principal methods and techniques of quantitative research (survey format, dependent and independent variables, sampling, measures, analysis and data interpretation);
• Intro to sensory evaluation applied to consumer research.

The case studies, provided as in-depth reading and discussed in class, will mainly focus on the evolution of consumption in the food sector, the segmentation of demand, the launch of a new product and the recent market. In particular, the case studies will focus on environmental and social sustainability, animal welfare, the relationship between diet and health, novel foods, alternative proteins, local products, etc.

Recommended readings

Mandatory reading material:
• The slides and other materials (audio and video) presented and discussed in the classroom will be uploaded to the Elly platform, weekly.
• Scientific articles and book chapters (in Italian and English) presented and discussed in the classroom will be uploaded to the Elly platform, when permitted by copyright.

All the material will be available in electronic format (e.g., pdf) on the Elly’s course page, in the folder "Materiale didattico".

The course slides are considered an essential part of the reference bibliography.
Suggested reading material:
•Suggested books and other resources will be recommended by the instructor during the lessons and uploaded in the Elly folder "Case Study".

Teaching methods

Lessons will be organized face-to-face.
The course alternates a set of lectures covering theoretical concepts to in-class presentations and discussions of case studies. During the lesson, the instructor will dedicate some time, when possible, to activities aimed at increasing critical and reflective thinking, discussion, and problem-solving skills.
The teaching activities will be conducted favoring active learning modalities (e.g., discussion of case studies and group work). During the first part of the lesson the teacher will explain the theoretical part of the concepts favoring the dialogical comparison with the classroom. Instead in the second part of the lesson, room will be given, when possible, to activities aimed at increasing critical and reflective thinking, the ability to argue, and to solve problems. In this way the students will be asked to apply the theory to project work activities individually, in pairs or in small groups.
Specifically, about halfway through the course, experiential learning cycles will be activated in which students, voluntarily, will be able to decide to apply the theory to an empirical research project (project-work) proposed by them and developed according to the methodological criteria illustrated in the lessons and in the material. bibliographic and didactic.
Finally, seminars/Webinars with company testimonials / consumer research experts will also be scheduled.
Lectures will be held on-site in compliance with safety standards, provided that further instructions on the ongoing health emergency are not implemented. Supporting material will be available on the specific, student-reserved platform (Elly) and will include slide presentations, audio-video aids or video-recording of the lectures.
The teaching will be carried out through lectures in the classroom with the help of slides that will represent teaching material, in addition to the recommended text (e.g., book chapters). The slides will be available online on the Elly website in pdf format and they will be uploaded weekly. To download the teaching materials, students need to register for the online course. Non-attending students are reminded to check the teaching material available, and the information provided by the instructor through the Elly platform.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam can be carried out in two ways:
a) project-work + test with 20 closed-ended questions
b) two open questions + test with 20 closed-ended questions
a) project-work + test with 20 closed-ended questions
For those students who choose to present the project-work at the end of the course (approximately around mid-January), the final grade will correspond to the sum of the assessments obtained of the project-work (0-10 points) and of a written test. The written test will consist of a test of 20 closed-ended questions (max 20 points), which students will be able to carry out starting from the official winter session exams (beginning of February). In the test of 20 closed-ended questions, each of the questions will be awarded a point for each correct answer, while there are no penalties for incorrect answers. The test will last for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Methods for returning the results: the results of the written test exam will be communicated on the Esse3 portal within a reasonable time compatible with the number of students enrolled.
In the case of maximum marks (30/30), honors can be attributed. Honors are awarded to those students who fully comply with the requirements. Furthermore, they must demonstrate a systematic knowledge of the subject, an excellent ability to apply the acquired knowledge, independent judgment and particular attention in the presentation of the project work.
b) two open questions + test with 20 closed questions
For students who decide NOT to develop and present the project-work, the final exam will consist of a mixed written test with: (a) a test of 20 closed-ended questions (max 20 points) and (b) two open-ended questions (max 10 points).
The criteria with which the open questions will be evaluated will be:
a) ability to process the knowledge transmitted during the course, applying them to the concrete case of the question (for example, designing an empirical research given a defined context proposed by the teacher on the day of the exam),
b) ability to argue their choices with references to the theory of behavioral sciences to investigate the proposed case study,
c) methods of linguistic exposure and use of specific terminology.
For the questions these three indicators will be weighted as follows: a) 50%, b) 30%, c) 20%. Each open question will be assigned a score from 0 to 5 using the weights for the three criteria.
For the test with 20 closed-ended questions, each of the questions will be awarded a point for each correct answer, while there are no penalties for incorrect answers. The final grade of the candidate will be obtained with the sum of the score of the closed-ended test (1 point for each correct question, therefore a maximum of 20 points) and the two open questions (maximum 10 points).
In the case of maximum marks (30/30), honors can be attributed. Honors are awarded to those students who fully comply with the requirements. Furthermore, they must demonstrate a systematic knowledge of the topic, an excellent ability to apply the acquired knowledge, autonomy of judgment and particular attention in the formal drafting of open answers.
The duration of the final exam will be two and a half hours (30 minutes for the multiple choice test and 2 hours for the open questions).
Please note that, in the event of inability to take the written exam in person due to sanitary restrictions imposed by the University, the exam will be carried out remotely through MS Teams. In the emergency case of a remote exam on MS Teams, further details will be provided by the teacher and the exam method may change (for example, the written test could be replaced by an oral exam).
Methods for returning the results of the written test and open questions: the results of the exam will be published on the Esse3 portal within a reasonable time compatible with the number of students enrolled, approximately one week from the date of the exam.

Other informations

Information about the Project-work:
As reported in the session "Teaching methods", students (in particular those attending class) can decide to develop a project-work (research project on a topic of their interest) starting from the second half of the course.
The oral presentation of the project-work (with Microsoft PowerPoint support) will last about 15-20 minutes and must be done in groups of 3-4 people (only in exceptional cases groups could be represented by two individuals). Each member of the group must be present at the discussion of the project work and present part of the work (for example, if the group is composed of three people it will be 5 minutes each for a total of 15 minutes). The intention to present the project-work, the focus of the research topic and the names of the group members must be communicated to the teacher by mid-November. More detailed information on the development of the project-work and how to present it will be provided during the course and uploaded on the Elly page.
The evaluation of the project work will be based on:
1) Coherence between the theoretical aspects, the proposed research plan and its implementation.
2) Strength and extent of the analysis (ability to stress the relevant points and address the specific questions).
3) Skills to link multidisciplinary topics and develop knowhow
4) Communication skills (clarity and effectiveness of the presentation).
5) Ability to generate discussion.
The project-work will be evaluated with a maximum of 10 points.
Methods for returning the project-work grade: the results will be communicated the same day at the end of the oral presentation.
The project-work grade (0-10 points) will be valid for the winter and summer exam sessions of the academic year in progress, therefore approximately for the exams from February to July.