A Changing World and Understanding Consumer Behavior with Dr. Rippee (Part 1)

Dr. Robert Rippee’s office mate is a machine learning robot named “Pepper.” Her dutiful listening is part of his research and teachings at UNLV about human behavior and the future of interactive technology. Dr. Rippee is the Executive Director for UNLV Black Fire Innovation Hub — his doctorate and dissertation bring together compelling fields of statistics, innovation, and consumer behavior.

In this episode of Net Effects Podcast, co-hosts Les Ottolenghi and Mark Bavisotto visit with Dr. Rippee about disruptive innovation, our changing world, and never settling for the status quo.

Episode highlights:

  • The pandemic is causing long-lasting changes in consumer behavior. The result is radical changes. For companies across industries, the goal is to understand some of those and how technology helps offer solutions going forward. Dr. Rippee talks about “COVID trauma” resulting from global disruption, resulting in both human and economic trauma. This will have a psychological effect on influencing consumer behavior (e.g., surfaces, crowds, etc.).
  • Post-Covid success: Experience design. Hospitality groups need to rethink and redesign their property’s interior design. “If I’m in that hot seat right now – as an owner or operator – and I’ve got a restaurant that’s two-thirds empty, and it’s absolutely destroying my ambiance, I have to change that experience. I have to redesign it right now. I have to find new ways to make it more visually appealing, more appealing from the sounds … I’ve got to explore some of those things rather than assuming that six months from now, everyone is going to be vaccinated, and we’re going back to the status quo. Because we’re not going back to the status quo.” Specific behavior points are going to stick with us.
  • Never be satisfied by the status quo. The key to innovation and adaptability is to constantly and fearlessly ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • Great salespeople are going to hear from you about how to sell to them. “(Sales). It’s more an activity of listening and paraphrasing back to them (the customer) that will close a sale. Marketing is a similar thing but at a much more conceptual level — it’s trying to understand the person you’re speaking to (this is what I teach in my class when we start customer segmentation models and identify customer bases for their innovation). ‘Who is that? Tell me about them. What do you know about their characteristics in detail?’ Because if you don’t know that, you don’t know whom you’re speaking to. You’re just blindly broadcasting like a billboard next to the highway to every driver that goes by.”
  • Advice for startups: Find your market fit. Understand your target customers’ individual persona. Starting there gives you a baseline and forces you to think about the customer’s needs, very specifically. These details can include pain points and functionality elements. 

Other topics included in this episode include social change, the hospitality industry, sales and marketing, and more. Listen to the full episode now.

About Dr. Robert Rippee: Dr. Rippee is currently the Executive Director of UNLV’s Black Fire Innovation Hub, as the visionary guide for teams of students, faculty, staff, and partner stakeholders in fulfilling the vision and mission for economic development and diversity through problem-solving based idea creation, innovation, acceleration, and commercialization. Black Fire Innovation Hub brings one of the nation’s top research institutions to incubate and accelerate problem-solving innovation. Black Fire Innovation will create a collaborative, synergistic environment designed to advance student ideas, industry innovation projects, and economic development through advanced technology development.

Black Fire Innovation Hub is housed in a state-of-the-art research building at the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park, located in southwestern Las Vegas, a few miles from the main UNLV campus and additional facilities currently under development.

Dr. Rippee is the co-founder of two early-stage startups: one with innovative new technology for the wine industry currently holding a provisional patent; the second a startup using ultraviolet light as the basis for a hotel room sterilization device. He is also a Net Effect Ventures partner. NEV is a social-responsibility-focused venture capital and consulting firm.

Dr. Rippee is the former Senior Vice President of Marketing for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, culminating in more than 25 years of innovation experience in development, hospitality, resort development, gaming, and a robust network of advisors and mentors across technology and hospitality and gaming. Before joining Las Vegas Sands, he served as Chief Marketing Officer for two significant resort land developers based on the East Coast.

Dr. Rippee attained his Ph.D. in Hotel Administration from UNLV in December 2020, researching consumer behavior and human learning in the context of innovation. He has extensive research expertise in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. He is well known across the university. He is frequently requested as the academic advisor by graduate students for independent research projects ranging from video game development to robotic process automation. His research has included game theory, problem gaming, the convergence of gaming and gambling, human learning, innovation, and esports. He holds an MBA from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and an undergraduate degree in Finance from The University of Wyoming.

He is also a Decorated Veteran, having served as a pilot in the United States Navy. He is an avid bicyclist, both road and mountain. He is also an avid fitness practitioner.