As an 'emerging fellow' UO researcher to follow the signs

Grocery story signs

Signs on buildings help customers find a business. Signs inside a store point customers to product locations and items on sale. UO marketing professor Aparna Sundar is exploring a broader impact: Does signage engage customers?

This new direction in her portfolio is her selection as one of first three researchers named under the Emerging Fellows Program of the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education, a North Carolina-based nonprofit. Fellowships last two years and provide up to $10,000 annually for a project.

Sundar will explore how on-premise signage influences the risk perceptions, product choices and bidding behaviors of consumers. In a series of five experiments she’ll test the effects of dynamic imagery. She plans to use eye-tracking technology and on-screen advertisements to study signage near schools and in shopping cart navigation in malls.

“My prediction is that dynamic imagery increases arousal in customers and then subsequently affects how much they are willing to pay or risk in certain circumstances,” she said.

While signage has long been considered vitally important in marketing and promotional effort, academic researchers have not extensively studied it. The lack of research led to the formation of the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education in 2015, the same year that Sundar joined the faculty of the Lundquist College of Business.

Sundar’s expertise has been in market research and design. She has studied in-store design, graphics and the effects of color on branding. As a former consultant with Ipsos, an international market research company, she collaborated on projects with Target, Wal-Mart, Hershey Co., Kellogg Co. and numerous other large retail businesses. She’s also worked in the retail industry.

—By Jim Barlow, University Communications