Responsible customer engagement - Centre for Business Improvement - University of Derby

Responsible customer engagement

Market Sensing Market Sensing Research Cluster

What is market sensing?

Market sensing is all about finding depth of meaning - some research finds out what is happening, but depth research uncovers why and how things happen. Researchers in this area are interested in discovering deep insights rather than quick answers. These deep insights demand qualitative and innovative approaches to ‘sense’ meaning.

Application in practice

The deeper insights gained from market sensing allow a fuller understanding of the drivers and motivations in the behaviour of customers, clients and employees. The results of research conducted using these methods are therefore applicable in a range of contexts including marketing strategy, branding, communications, social media management, internal marketing, services improvement and customer relationship management.


Methods used in market sensing are generally qualitative in order to seek deeper insights. These methods include the following.

  • Emotional scaling and metaphorical analysis
  • Discourse analysis and social media text analysis
  • Ethnography and observation
  • Co-creation and services dominant logic
  • Action research
  • Depth interviews and case studies
  • Appreciative inquiry

The researchers encourage students at all levels to find the deepest meaning in their work through using these methods, sometimes alongside quantitative methods. The richness achieved through qualitative methods can provide important insights for businesses looking to improve their services and relationships with customers.


Dr David Longbottom is Reader in Marketing. His research is in improvement of service quality in financial services, looking at the retail branch of the future. Working with a major UK bank, David is seeking to discover how different customers feel comfortable with online and offline banking services.

Dr Alison Lawson is researching the impact of changing patterns of media consumption on the book publishing industry in the UK, looking beyond the raw sales figures and bestseller rankings to find out why consumers behave the way they do. The research uses depth interviews and appreciative enquiry. Alison’s other research interest is in the experience of PhD students and the application of services marketing theory.

Dr Kuldeep Banwait's research concerns the marketisation of higher education, examining the changing landscape of the sector from the point of view of senior staff in universities in the UK. Are students becoming customers? The insights from this research using depth interviews may shape future recruitment and retention policies at universities.

Dr Charles Hancock’s research examines the relationship between students and universities, seeking deep drivers and values. What are the real reasons students go to university? What do they hope to achieve and how do they truly feel about their experience? Charles’ use of Zaltman’s metaphorical analysis sidesteps the chance that students will say what they feel they should say and instead will reveal their deeper feelings.

Annmarie Hanlon is in the final stages of her PhD, researching the critical success factors needed for successful social media strategies and how use of the modern marketing tools can be integrated with traditional communications methods. Her work will give businesses important information about best practice for integration and business use.

Lee Miller’s PhD research concerns experiential customer values in the low-price clothing retail sector. Lee’s work will identify and evaluate deep consumer metaphors and values associated with purchasing experiences, and will lead to the development of an experiential marketing improvement framework.

David Peck’s PhD is in the field of social media and the use that students make of social media networks as part of their decision making process when selecting a university. David’s work will give important insights to universities looking to make the best use of these digital technologies.

Barbara Tomasella’s research is in tourism marketing and sustainability. Now nearing the end of her PhD, Barbara plans to continue her work in this area.

Integration with teaching

Marketing research is one of the cornerstones of the University of Derby’s undergraduate and postgraduate marketing programmes. The research undertaken by the market sensing cluster informs curriculum development and is used to provide up-to-date examples in teaching. Students at all levels are encouraged to use research in assignments, particularly in their Independent Study module. Research methods are taught as an integrated part of understanding customer behaviour, services development, strategy formation and media planning.

All our staff use their research to inform their teaching, enriching the students’ experience with up-to-date literature and research data, and inspiring students to try different research methods.

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