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Center for Marketing and Sales Innovation Lab, Largest of its Kind in the Eastern U.S., Nears Completion

By Keith Morelli

Hammond showing the capabilities of new center

TAMPA (January 25, 2019) -- The new lab at the Muma College of Business doesn’t look like a typical lab. Inside, sophisticated computers are set up in individual stations, mood and sound lighting can be changed at the direction of the controller and the rooms have cameras and microphones. Sounds also are carefully controlled and eye movements are measured, brain waves are scrutinized, pulses monitored while interactions are recorded for analysis.

The facility isn’t just for research. It is equipped to facilitate dozens of conversations in-person and on the phone as students participate in experiential learning.

Welcome to the innovative interdisciplinary research and training facility that is about to open at the Muma College of Business as part of the newly created Center for Marketing and Sales Innovation. The lab is focused on the issues faced by businesses going to market and developing the skills people need to lead go-to-market efforts. When the lab opens in a few weeks, it will be the largest academic biometric behavior research facility in the eastern United States and one of the five largest biometric behavioral research labs in the world.

The dynamic nature and interdisciplinary focus of the lab is particularly unique. In addition to leadership in biometric buyer behavior research, the lab also is one of the largest dedicated sales training facilities supporting both field and inside sales.

In a series of linked lab spaces with the square footage of a four-bedroom house, the scale of the lab brings into focus the research and skills development in digital marketing, product innovation, business-decision making, field and inside sales. It will enable research efforts of a set of diverse users, including faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and partners exploring go-to-market issues. Out of this space, impactful research is expected.

“The lab builds on the energy and momentum of USF and is yet another expression of the university’s research leadership,” said Rob Hammond, director of the center. “USF ranks in the top 5 percent of all universities for total research expenditures and, according to the National Science Foundation, ranks first in Florida.”

The lab includes five interaction rooms and 20 individual testing stations. The facility is configurable to support a wide range of research functions as well as variety of training opportunities. Each of the interaction rooms includes remote viewing and recording capabilities for focus group research and training. Even the furniture is on wheels to allow rooms to be configured to support diverse research setting and skills development.

The lab is equipped with software that tracks eye movements to monitor where the subject’s attention goes when looking at advertisements or videos and measures galvanic skin responses, facial expressions and brain-waves to determine the subject’s likes and dislikes. The lab also supports mobile device interaction including frame grabbing and augmented reality/virtual reality testing.

“Ambient sound and light can be modified throughout the facility to simulate a diverse set of environmental conditions,” Hammond said, “like the lighting of a business office, customer location or the ambient music of an eatery to help find out what sparks buyer behavior and employee performance.”

Funded by the state, various grants and support from center donations, the lab will cost nearly $1 million when it’s finished, Hammond said, but the return on investment is enormous. One of the benefits is that graduates, will be trained to make an immediate impact in whatever jobs they undertake.

“No two business functions are more responsible for the top-line revenue of any company than sales and marketing,” Hammond said. “That is why we are excited that this new center – and this lab – will provide partnership opportunities with businesses to enhance go-to-market readiness for companies and students and become an economic engine for growth in the Tampa Bay region.”

Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said the lab is a win-win-win project for students, faculty and outside business marketing professionals. He said the lab is unique in that it helps researchers continue their quest to produce relevant, practical and impactful answers that translate into new and retained clients and customers for businesses. It also helps students, he said, learn important analytical skills.

“We have infused data and analytics into our curriculum in a big way and this new interdisciplinary research and training facility is a perfect example of what we offer to both graduate and undergraduate researchers intent on solving vexing management, accounting, finance, sales and marketing problems for our partners in the real business world,” Limayem said. “This fits perfectly with our vision of student success, engagement with the outside business community and innovation in how we approach problems in the marketplace.

“I could not be prouder to be the dean of the Muma College of Business now, as we forge ahead, breaking new ground in business research for not only our corporate colleagues in the Tampa Bay area, but also across the nation and around the world.”