Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Management Science

First Advisor

Sanjoy Ghose

Second Advisor

Amit Bhatnagar

Committee Members

Zuhui Xiao, Xiaohang Yue


Consumer, Pandemic, Preference



The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2021Under the Supervision of Professor Sanjoy Ghose

The global pandemic of 2020 triggered by Coronavirus (COVID-19) has revealed many challenges around the world. Although initiated by a major health crisis, the scope and scale of the challenges expanded far beyond the health care sector. This crisis forced the global community to adapt to rapid and major changes in lifestyles and practices. Despite the differences in responses due to sociocultural customs and available resources, some common approaches were evident. For example, travel industry both globally and domestically everywhere came to a halt. Although essential services were largely uninterrupted, rapid adjustments had to be made to account for the heightened risk and awareness to public health and safety. Markets and businesses streamlined to survive and made business model changes to accommodate consumer expectations. As the economy recovers, one major challenge for businesses would be to attract customers and provide services amidst heightened risk awareness and gain competitive advantage. The focus of this study is to explore a viable strategy for two contact intensive service sectors (e.g. Quick Service Restaurant and Salon Services) in the United States. Prior to the pandemic, the growth trends in both of these industries were stable. During 2020, contact intensive services were challenged to make adjustments to survive and potentially continue as viable businesses. The major challenge for these industries was to reduce contact risks to provide sense of care and safety for consumers. For Dining facilities, this was accomplished mostly through adapting curb side delivery and third party delivery services. While curb side delivery could be integrated in the business model in the long run, third party delivery with upwards of 30% charges is not a practical long term solution especially since this cost cannot be passed to consumers as the competition for pricing at this level is high. For salon Services customer loyalty plays an important role for sustainability.In this research, I study two different industries to estimate consumer preference in service delivery method. While both industries are characterized by contact intensive service structures, the QSR industry successfully found effective alternative delivery methods and with a few easily accommodated adjustments it could be well on its way for recovery. QSR resembles utility sector more closely since food consumption is essential whether store bought or home-made. The trade off is the time and labor vs. convenience and price. The other industry studied is the personal care industry. In most cultural traditions, this service is considered to be a part of hedonic industry. While it is not utilitarian, historically it is also the least impacted and most resilient industry even through financial cycles in the United States. One explanation is that this industry offers not just the services but social context and personal support to the consumers which cannot be substituted through technology only.

Included in

Marketing Commons