Chicago Booth, Nielsen collaborate on consumer research initiative

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Nielsen, a global leader in measurement and information, on April 5 announced plans to offer comprehensive historical perspective on consumer purchases to all United States-based academic researchers.

“This will start a revolution in terms of the research we do as marketers and the insight we gain into consumer behavior,” said Sanjay Dhar, the James H. Lorie Professor of Marketing at Chicago Booth and director of the school’s Kilts Center for Marketing, which will oversee release of the information. “Thanks to exposure to the power of analytics early in their education and careers, our Nielsen/Chicago Booth collaboration will yield a new generation of marketers passionate about insight and analytics,” Dhar said.


“Many of today’s best practices in marketing began as academic research,” said Frank Piotrowski, senior vice president of measurement science at Nielsen. “We believe this alliance will yield research that improves marketers’ abilities to drive growth and profitability in the consumer packaged goods industry.”

As part of the arrangement, all tenure-track faculty members and PhD students from accredited U.S. colleges and universities can apply for access to the historical Consumer Panel information Nielsen is making available. The extensive marketing information will allow academics to investigate topics that previously could not be studied. “Up to now, a very limited number of product categories, households, retail channels and markets were released to a small set of specific academics,” Dhar said.  

“I believe the impact of releasing Nielsen’s information will be as significant as the creation of the Center for Research in Security Prices, a data-gathering project established at Booth in 1960 that changed the face of finance,” said Sunil Kumar, dean of Chicago Booth. Financial economists worldwide have used CRSP historical stock market data to create landmark studies, said Kumar, the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Operations Management.

Newly available longitudinal data spanning multiple years also will open up new avenues for research. Examples of projects now possible include research on the effect of branding decisions that typically show results years later, such as the impact of advertising investments on positioning a brand. The information also will allow researchers to investigate differences in purchasing behavior over various retail channels and among various consumer segments.

The Nielsen information is based on product purchases made by a panel of consumer households across all retail outlets in all U.S. markets. The dataset includes purchases from all Nielsen-tracked categories, including food, nonfood grocery items, health and beauty aids, and selected general merchandise. The panel information represents 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. households who continually provide information about the makeup of their households, the products they buy, as well as when and where they make purchases.

Researchers at Booth and the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago prepared the initial information release covering 2004-09 and are planning for annual updates.

Booth and Nielsen are also working to release Retail Scanner purchase information in the near future. The scanner information tracks weekly sales volume and pricing information from 25,000 individual stores from a variety of retail channels including grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers and others. This information will help identify in-store shopping trends and opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to collaborate better.

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