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Student Experiences

Delving into the Consumer Journey

In a world of seemingly endless choices, today’s consumers don’t often travel a linear path when making a purchase.

Frozen raspberries

As part of the marketing junior core, BYU Marriott offers a three-credit class—Marketing 402: Consumer Behavior—that helps students delve deeply into the journey of why we buy what we buy.

Marketing 402 shows “how integral it is to listen to consumers, understand their needs, and find out what they care about in order to improve the user experience,” says Kathryn Eyring, a junior from Provo majoring in marketing. Throughout the semester, students gain skills that help them not only to land top jobs but also to improve their own decision-making.

When associate professor of marketing Darron Billeter was developing the course a decade ago, he turned to alumni working in the industry for advice, asking them what talents companies were looking for in new hires. “I keep checking in to ask what else I should be teaching,” Billeter says, “and I update the curriculum every year based on those suggestions.”

One takeaway from the course is a clearer understanding of the decision-making process. “We start by talking about self—who we are and the decisions we’re making about our identities,” says Billeter. “We talk about how we’re influenced by our culture and those around us. Because the consumer experience is also about life experience, we talk about real situations students are facing and about the role faith and testimony play in our decision-making. That’s a rewarding and powerful part of the class.”

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Another powerful learning experience happens when students choose a product category to research—such as frozen fruit, pickles, or soda.
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Another powerful learning experience happens when students choose a product category to research—such as frozen fruit, pickles, or soda—and a specific brand. During the first month, students shop with a core consumer of that product and watch the consumer use the product. Students outline their findings in a customer journey map that they later draw from to formulate ideas for improving or shaping the consumer’s experience.

Variety of soda cans

Though class members work in groups of four, all students execute each part of the project and complete their own write-ups in addition to contributing to their team’s presentation—that way everyone learns and practices every skill.

Class members also have the opportunity to analyze real-life consumer data because of Billeter’s agreement with top US consumer reporting agency IRI. BYU Marriott is one of only a few schools that have access to this information. In addition, students receive a subscription to Brandwatch and become certified in social media data analysis.

As the semester winds down, groups use the insights they’ve gained from their research to develop new product ideas. The process includes making prototypes and putting together a pitch presentation, which is followed by a rigorous Q&A session and feedback from Billeter. Students leave the class with solid skills in consumer insights and product marketing management, confident they can make a difference at their first jobs.

“This class has probably required the most time, impacted my future career the most, and been the most enjoyable,” says Wesley Skidmore, a senior marketing major from Los Alamos, New Mexico. “Consumer Behavior gave me experiences few other students in the country have had, and it set me apart during my interview process.”


Written by Shirleen M. Saunders