Responsible Customer Engagement

Aims and focus

This inter-disciplinary group draws upon research from academics in marketing, tourism, and sport management. We also work collaboratively with academic colleagues in national and international universities and businesses in the region and across the UK. 

Our research focuses upon ‘responsible’ and sustainable interactions between customer/providers, developing long-term, valuable relationships with customers, and obtaining robust, relevant consumer understandings. The group has a particular focus on retail and tourism and in-depth qualitative research methodologies such as the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET).

Collaborations, advisory work and funded projects

We work with several organisations in the private sector, such as the Cathedral Quarter (Derby) Business Improvement District, Derby City Council (Future High Streets fund and City Vision Commission), the Australian Environment Protection Agency, Derby County Football Club, Derby County Community Trust, Marks and Spencer, the Co-operative Group and the Tanzania Tourist Board.

Members of the group also act as advisors and committee members for, for example, the British Academy of Management Marketing & Retail SIG, the Global Wellness Institute, the National Research Council Italy, and the Norway Research Council. 

Members of the research group worked on a funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with PKF Cooper Parry, a leading international business advisory organisation, in 2017/18. The funded project explored how the company could develop a digital ‘zero touch’ client engagement strategy. 

In 2016/17, we were awarded a grant from the Academy of Marketing Research Funding scheme to support work into value co-creation in temporary, independent retailing. This study looked at how pop-up stores are perceived by customers. 

Previous events

Colleagues from the group have been involved in a number of events and invited talks:

In 2020, the group hosted a funded Society for the Advancement in Management Studies Visual Methodology event aimed at Early Career Researchers (ECR) and Postgraduate Research (PGR) students with guest speakers from Harvard University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Manchester. Methodologies explored in the event included ZMET, eye-tracking technology and film making. 

In 2019, members of the group hosted the international Tourism Naturally Conference as part of a consortium of founding institutions which include Colorado State University, the University of Pisa, Central China Normal University and the University of Sassari.

Researchers have been invited keynote speakers at, for example, the Peak District Partnership, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development East Midlands, the International Robotics Festival on ‘Tourism for all’, the Annual Forum and Conference of Chinese Tourism Management Association and LUX* Resorts and Hotels.

In 2020, Professor Carley Foster was invited to give her Inaugural Lecture on Retail in the Community: Beyond the buyer-seller transaction. 


Examples of our work include (for further outputs please refer to individual staff profiles):

Working with the media


Doctoral students

We welcome applications for doctoral study in areas relating to responsible customer engagement, particularly in the retail and tourism industries, please contact Professor Carley Foster for an informal discussion. 

Bowen Shang / ZMET

View Exploring the UK high street department store offering: A ZMET-based retailer brand equity study video transcript