Ryan Hamilton

Associate Professor of Marketing





Before coming to Goizueta, Ryan Hamilton received his PhD in Marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher, and his research findings have been covered in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Financial Times and CNN Headline News. He has consulted on matters of pricing, branding, and customer experience with Walmart, FedEx, Home Depot, Caterpillar, ConAgra, Cigna, Visa, and Ipsos, among others, and has been a keynote speaker and trainer on various topics in marketing and decision-making to groups as varied small business owners, lawyers, librarians, accountants, and advertisers.

Professor Hamilton co-authored a book and co-hosts a podcast, both called, The Intuitive Customer, which apply the insights from consumer psychology to effectively managing customer experiences. In 2011 he was named one of “The World’s Best 40 B-School Profs Under the Age of 40” in the first ever such rankings by Poets & Quants, an online magazine that covers the world of MBA education. He has, sadly, since aged out of eligibility for this award. He has also produced classes for The Great Courses, on both marketing and human decision making.

Professor Hamilton has an eclectic background that includes both an undergraduate degree in physics and time spent performing stand-up and sketch comedy. He is the proud father of five children, which means he spends much of his time exhausted and slightly rumpled. This also gives him some social cover for his unabashed enthusiasm for Lego and comic book movies. He has never run a marathon and has no intention of ever doing so.


Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management




Brigham Young University


Applied Physics

Areas of Expertise

Customer Psychology
Customer Decision Making
Price and Price Image


Competing for consumer identity: Limits to self-expression and the perils of lifestyle branding

Journal of Marketing


The idea that consumers use brands to express their identities has led many companies to reposition their products from focusing on functional attributes to focusing on how they fit into a consumer's lifestyle. This repositioning is welcomed by managers who ...

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Being of two minds: Switching mindsets exhausts self-regulatory resources

Organizational Beahavior and Human Decision


The human psyche is equipped with the capacity to solve problems using different mental states or mindsets. Different mindsets can lead to different judgment and decision making styles, each associated with its own perspective and biases. To change perspective, ...

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The dark side of rapport: Agent misbehavior face-to-face and online

Management Science


A considerable body of research has extolled the virtues of establishing rapport in negotiations. Negotiators who are high in rapport tend to be more likely to reach an agreement and more satisfied with the outcome. Although rapport generally has been ...

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Research Spotlight

4 min

#Expert Insight: Price Image Formation: When is HILO low?

When consumers choose where to shop, they often consider a store’s price image —does the store have a reputation for having lower or higher prices than its competitors? A store’s reputation for lower prices doesn’t happen by chance.Choosing a pricing strategy is one of the biggest pricing decisions a retailer makes.In “When is HILO Low? Price Image Formation Based on Frequency versus Depth Pricing Strategies,” a recently published paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, co-authors Ryan Hamilton, associate professor of marketing, Ramnath Chellappa, associate dean and Goizueta term professor of information systems and operations management, and Daniel Sheehan, associate professor of marketing and supply chain at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics, explore a gap in existing pricing strategy research. “Our research doesn’t threaten the validity of the previous research,” said Hamilton, “but what it does do is point to the limited generalizability of the previous research.”This is because previous pricing strategy research used the same research paradigm: It emphasized consumers’ perspectives as they compared prices simultaneously across multiple stores. Hamilton, Chellappa, and Sheehan wondered what would happen if they studied consumers as they compared prices of products within a store, instead of across stores.When they did so, the authors found that “many of the prominent findings of previous research are reversed,” they wrote. “We propose that when stores’ prices are evaluated one at a time, or in isolation, consumers will rely on the most salient contextual clues available—within-category price information—when forming a price image.” For example, rather than research the price of peanut butter across multiple grocery stores, shoppers often evaluate the price of peanut butter by comparing the prices of the brands on the shelf in front of them.To illustrate their point, the authors explore two basic pricing strategies: a frequency pricing strategy and a depth pricing strategy. Every Day Low Pricing (EDLP) is a frequency strategy where stores offer small price advantages over their competitors on many items. Walmart employs an EDLP strategy. A common depth strategy is a high-low (HILO) pricing strategy. HILO offers infrequent, but deep, price advantages over competitors. Macy’s utilizes this strategy.“The conventional wisdom is that EDLP equals low price,” explained Hamilton. But he and his co-authors argue that in a non-theoretical environment, the effectiveness of EDLP strategies is less clear. The trio hypothesized that the context in which consumers encounter prices has important implications. Specifically, that the frequency advantage of EDLP identified in earlier research was limited to those scenarios where customers were able to simultaneously compare prices across multiple stores. In contrast, they argue that a depth advantage, one resulting from HILO pricing, will be more likely when consumers evaluate store prices separately.“Without simultaneous comparisons across stores, consumers shift from using across-store prices as reference points to using within-category reference prices. As a result of this shift, deep price advantages are easier to evaluate than frequent price advantages and therefore more influential on customers’ formation of price image,” they write.“Because our theoretical account is based on within-category external reference prices, we predict that a depth store is likely to be evaluated as having a lower price image than a frequency store even when consumers are exposed to the prices of just one store,” they write.The authors tested their hypothesis using six separate experiments. All but one of the experiments studied national brands commonly found in grocery stores. (The other experiment used televisions.) In the experiments where participants saw store prices simultaneously, the experiment replicated the frequency advantage noted in previous research. But when participants did not have simultaneous price information across stores, the previous findings didn’t hold“What we found is that if you distance those prices comparisons even a little bit -showing a price on one webpage and then seeing a price on another webpage that’s enough to completely reverse the findings,” explained Hamilton.In an isolated setting, “a couple of really low prices” will better communicate a store’s low-price image, said Hamilton. “That’s the big story.”While excited about the findings of their research, Hamilton is quick to point out the limits of their hypothesis, such as when pricing information isn’t readily available or when the consumer isn’t familiar with the brands of the product they wish to buy. “People want a simple answer that works everywhere, but it’s more nuanced than that,” said Hamilton. “This [hypothesis] is going to work better under certain set of circumstances than others because people process price information differently.”The insights aren’t only useful for retailers. While using a store’s price image to shop can be efficient from a consumer standpoint, assuming that the prices are low solely because the store has a reputation for low prices isn’t always the case. A retailer’s price image has vulnerabilities. Not everything at Costco is cheaper than it is at Whole Foods. Southwest Airlines may not always be cheaper than Delta Air Lines. “If you’re shopping for things you really care about,” advised Hamilton, “it might be worth doing more across-store price comparisons.”Chellappa is excited about how the paper addresses gaps in traditional economic models of pricing. “While much research in economics and information systems focuses on the availability of information for price comparison, the cognitive aspect of ‘how’ consumers compare and process such information is only explicated by studies such as ours. Looking at pricing through a behavioral lens, capturing consumers’ real shopping behavior reveals great insights that will be useful for firms,” he said.Interested in learning more about consumer behavior and Price Image Formation Based on Frequency versus Depth Pricing Strategies? Then let us help with your coverage and questions.Ryan Hamilton and Ramnath Chellappa are both available to speak regarding this important topic simply click on either expert's icon now to arrange an interview today.

Ryan HamiltonRamnath K Chellappa

1 min

Tune In and Learn from our Experts - The Science of Decision Making

Did you know the average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions each day?The Science of Decision Making is the most recent episode available on The Goizueta Effect podcast.The Goizueta Effect PodcastEmory University's Goizueta Business School Professor Ryan Hamilton shares how a better understanding of the human mind can help you make the best decisions in your own life – and position your products, services, and teams for growth.On the podcast you’ll find out more about:Grounding Tenets: The 4R’s of Decision Making How Cognitive Resources Impact the Decision-Making ProcessThe Mental Load of COVID Importance of Reference Points for Businesses Halo Effects:                           Impact on Perceived Prices and Satisfaction Levels                           Impact on Satisfaction Levels                           Impact on Individual Perception Does Hamilton’s Research Influence His Behavior? The link to the podcast is attached below and if you are a reporter interested in learning more about Ryan Hamilton’s research – we’re here to help.Ryan Hamilton, associate professor of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. He is available to speak with media regarding brands and brand reputation – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

Ryan Hamilton

3 min

Product Returns Represent Billion-Dollar Strategic Blind Spot for Major Retailers

“Product returns have never, to our knowledge, been explicitly included as a stage in a major customer journey model,” the authors note in their paper. “This exclusion represents a strategic blind-spot for marketers.”In December 2020, Linne Fulcher, vice president, customer strategy, science and journeys at Walmart U.S., published a blog post that outlined Walmart’s new return policy. Dubbed “Carrier Pickup by FedEx,” the service was just in time for the holidays, free, and “here to stay,” Fulcher wrote. She described the policy as “an incredibly convenient way to make that unwanted gift ‘magically’ disappear,” whether customers bought items in a store, online, or from a third party vendor. “We want the returns experience to be easy, safe and seamless,” she added.Returns are big business. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. consumers returned an estimated $428 billion worth of merchandise last year—approximately 10.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales. The numbers for ecommerce are even more startling: online shopping accounted for roughly $565 billion of 2020 retail sales, of which $102 billion in merchandise—about 18 percent—was returned. However, retail advisory firm Optoro noted in 2019 that of 117 top retailers, not even a third of them quantify the full cost of returns.Even before the pandemic hit, Sandy Jap, Sarah Beth Brown professor in marketing, Ryan Hamilton, associate professor of marketing, and former Goizueta Business School dean, Tom Robertson, were perplexed at how little academic research existed regarding returns. “Instead of viewing returns as a nuisance and an added cost, they are an opportunity to engage with customers and build brand loyalty,” explains Robertson. “Returns are part and parcel of the new retail landscape. This has been exacerbated by the strong uptick in online.”To help retailers identify opportunities, Jap, Hamilton, and Robertson wrote “Many (Un)happy Returns? The Changing Nature of Retail Product Returns and Future Research Directions,” published in Journal of Retailing last year. The article is essentially a researcher’s road map for exploring this “strategically important area,” says Jap.Some retailers, such as Warby Parker and Stitch Fix, have built returns into their business models. Others, like Zappos and Nordstrom, have made consumer-generated returns easy, assuming that doing so engenders brand loyalty and repeat business. Yet most retailers seem “to lack a coherent philosophy” on returns and “appear not to have built return rates into their business models at all,” the trio state in their paper.“There are so many interesting and important questions to be answered around product returns,” says Hamilton. “Important as returns are, the academic marketing research has barely scratched the surface.”“Many (Un)happy Returns” highlights five specific areas where advancements in theory and practice would provide opportunity for greater understanding:1. How product returns transform the customer journey2. The “dark side” of returns—exploring the gray area between justified returns and outright fraud3. The effects of returns on traditional retailer supply chains4. Customer response to easy product returns and practices5. The effect of retailers’ product return practices on their reputation“These questions represent a range of important directions for assembling a body of work on retailer-initiated and customer-initiated return behaviors and processes,” they write. “Ultimately, these might serve to improve the performance of return forecasting models, illuminate optimal go-to-market strategies and distribution processes in the evolving, technology-oriented marketplace that characterizes retailing today.”Each of the five points above are detailed in a piece recently published by Emory University. That article is attached here:If you are a journalist looking to cover this topic or if you are simply interested in learning more, then let us help.Ryan Hamilton, associate professor of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School.Sandy Jap holds the Sarah Beth Brown Endowed Professorship of Marketing Chair at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. Both are available to speak with media, simply click on eithr expert's icon now – to book an interview today.

Ryan HamiltonSandy Jap
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In the News

Best Coffee Cities in America

Wallet Hub  online


In the past year, a great number of coffee shops across the country shifted towards contact-free business, with pick-up and delivery options. What are the prospects of coffee shops as many states have reopened?

All businesses need to meet the needs of their customers if they want to stay in business. Over the last year, contactless options obviously became important and so businesses responded. Will people still want contactless options in the future? I sure hope not, because if they do, it will probably mean the pandemic is still with us. But as the demand for contact-free service diminishes, you’d better believe it will be replaced by some other set of customer preferences. Businesses need to stay close to their customers to know which ways those preferences are shifting. That’s true whether we are in a pandemic or not.

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Column: Enough with all the extra fees. Just tell me how much I’m really paying

Los Angeles Times  print


“It’s well understood that consumers tend to focus on the first part of the price, the base price,” said Ryan Hamilton, an associate professor of marketing at Emory University.

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Why we pay too much for ‘healthy’ food

OZY  online


When food marketed as healthy has a low price tag, consumers are more likely to doubt the health claim and seek more evidence to confirm whether it’s true.

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