Into the minds of consumers

Into the minds of consumers

Dr. Kyung Lee is on the pulse of why consumers behave the way they do. He has been teaching management information systems, statistics and IT entrepreneurship at the Williams School of Business since 2011, but he’s also been very active in developing areas of research that explore consumer behaviour.

The Busan, South Korea native has published several research papers on online product reviews. “On websites such as and, millions of people are sharing their experiences of a product or service, from books, hotels, restaurants, and so much more,” explains Dr. Lee. “People write these reviews to help fellow consumers make an informed decision about a particular product or service. My research focuses on the companies who use these sites to discover what their customers are saying about their own products.”

Before the advent of these websites, companies conducted market research through focus groups, which was a time-consuming and costly way for them to evaluate their products from a consumer’s perspective. Now that consumers’ opinions are online for anyone to see, companies can simply visit a webpage full of reviews to find out whether or not their product or service is being well received by the public.

“Online reviews are valuable word of mouth for companies,” concludes Dr. Lee. “They are great for companies because they can receive feedback very quickly and at no cost. It means they can make adjustments to their product or service more efficiently. Consumers ultimately win since they get an improved product or service.”

Dr. Lee is also looking into social media networks, particularly Facebook. Now the biggest social media network in the world, Facebook has attracted countless companies to create fan pages on Facebook. “If you are on Facebook, you can search for a company or a specific product, like Apple or the IPhone,” he says. “If you ‘like’ a company’s fan page, that company will appear in your timeline on your Facebook account. My research focuses on what makes people follow company fan pages on Facebook. When you ‘like’ a video on the Samsung Galaxy fan page,for example, you can share it with your friends on Facebook. I am looking into what makes an individual do that. This is what we call viral marketing.”

Dr. Lee often asks his students about their own consumer behaviour. “I ask my students if they watch television. The surprising answer is that they don’t! When they wake up, they open their smartphone and check their Facebook page. They get their news online. It’s very clear that the next generation is consuming different media compared to the older generations who tend to follow traditional media like newspapers, radio and television.”

With consumer trends constantly evolving, there is no doubt that Dr. Lee will be unearthing new research findings that he will share with his students every semester.

Please find Dr. Lee’s full list of publications and research activities online.