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The purpose of this Chapter is to discuss and justify the methodology used to effectively investigate the phenomenon informing the research title which is; The Impact of a company managed online community on purchase decision and brand loyalty
Firstly, this chapter explains the conceptual structure of the research which will describe how the author is going to carry out the research. Then, explains research method types and methods use to retrieve the collected data by primary research. Research methodology explains the overall structure of the study. According to Croswell J (2010) methodology is the analysis of principle methods, rules and evaluation employed by a researcher. The discussion is focused on matters regarding the purpose of research, research philosophy, research approach, research strategy, data collection, data analysis, and quality standards.
3.2 Research aims and objectives
The study aims seek the dimensions of an online community hosted by a company and how it affects consumer's purchase decision. In addition, this study investigates how an online community can attribute to generate their brand loyalty through its own brand community.
These are the objectives:
To investigate a company managed online community and characteristics
To identify key influencer in online purchase decision
To investigate the relationship a company managed online community and consumer purchase decision
To find out the relationship between a company managed online community and brand loyalty
3.3. Research Process
The research process used to define the approach of the research in the study in exhaustive. In figure 3.1 research process 'onion' describes the issue underlying the choice of data collection methods (Saunders et al. 2009). Below figure shows the overview of the researcher's methodology towards this research.
Figure 3.1 Research Process Onion.
Source: Created by the Author, adopted from Saunders et al (2009:108)
Also, figure 3.2 shows the outline of process for this research.
Figure 3.2 Process of the author's research
Source: Created by the Author(2010)
3.4. Purpose of research
There are three different types of research, and Yin (2009) writes that these are exploratory, explanatory, and descriptive. The purpose of the research determined which one of these to use in order to be able to fulfil this purpose. Saunders et al (2009) describe exploratory research as a way to find or look for new insight or to see what is going on. They further state that it is especially good to use if the purpose of research is to increase the understanding of a problem. Gliner et al(2009) complement the characteristics of exploratory research by adding that this type of research calls for flexibility, since new information can change the direction of the research. Gliner et al(2009) conclude that descriptive research is characterized by that the problem is clear and well structured. Saunders et al (2009) writes that it is necessary to have a good picture of the problem before the data collection. The focus of an explanatory study is to find interrelations between the variables in the studied situation or problem (Saunders et al, 2009). Saunders et al (2009) also states that analysis of quantitative data can show correlations between factors which gives the researcher a picture of the relationships involved.
The overall purpose of this research was to investigate the area of online communities and its influence on purchase decision and brand loyalty. The goal was to seek out if marketing in these specific media channels are more accepted among consumers, and why this is the case, in order to gain a better understanding of their effectiveness and influence. This led us to use a both exploratory and explanatory approach. In the data collection and in the analysis we explore, and in the findings and conclusions we begin to explain.
3.5 Research Philosophy
The research philosophy is determined by the philosophical points of views, as there are different approaches about the way in which the knowledge is urbanized and judged as suitable. Thus, the research philosophy relates to the development of knowledge and the knowledge's nature (Saunders et al, 2009). The literature suggests three main approaches in which to conduct a research process and all of them have an important part and role in business and management. These are Positivism, Realism and Phenomenology.
Positivism is described as the conventional way of research and it acquires a clear quantitative approach to find out phenomena as an alternative of qualitative approach (Croswell, 2009). That is also said that positivism is very important approach in natural science (Remenyi, 2002). The understanding of this idea may not be proven but the philosophy based on positivism is far more powerful than the ideas for reaching targets and achieving goals. Positivism is very important research philosophies for creating new ideas. Thus, positivistic research tries to identify the non-financial motivation techniques provided by Tesco-express. The researcher uses the idealistic approach of positivism while using a questionnaire with a group of people.
Another approach which relates to the positivism is realism (Saunders et al, 2007). According to Kothari, (2005) Realism is the source of many ideas, belief and opinions of human.
Interpretive studies presume that people produce and correlate their own subjective and inter subjective meanings as they interact with the world around them. Interpretive researchers thus attempt to understand phenomena through accessing the meanings participants assign to them (Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991).
Here researcher has decided to choose a Positivism philosophy, based on the aim of the research. The reason behind choosing this approach is responses does not influence the researcher's belief and the knowledge (Proctor 2006). Also Positivism is one of the strongest research philosophies for creating new ideas. In addition to this, according to Gill (2002), the importance of a highly controlled methodology facilitates replication and experimental explanation to statistical analysis.
3.6 Research Approach
There are two different types of approach for research. These are deductive and inductive theories(Bryman, 08). Deductive theory represents the commonest view of the nature of the relationship between theory and social research(Bryman, 08). First, theory and the hypothesis come and drive the process of gathering data.
On the other hand, inductive process involves observations first and generalise the theory after the observations.
This study is a business problem, more specifically how online community hosted by a company influence its consumers. Therefore, the aim of this study is to understand of the consumers who use online communities as a tool of interaction. Therefore, this study needs deductive approach.
3.7 Research Method
There are mainly two types of research strategies which we can choose: quantitative and qualitative. These approaches are depending upon the structure and the purpose of the study(Bryman, 2010).
Quantitative research can be constructed as a research strategy which collect and analyse quantitative data. Quantitative research requires a deductive approach to the relationship between theory and research, also it has incorporated the practice the natural scientific model and norms of natural scientific model and positivism approach(Bryman, 2010).
A quantitative research approach used numbers ask base for the analysis instead of words like a qualitative would do. Blaxter et al(2010) adds to this explanation by describing that quantitative research uses a large-scale set of data.
Qualitative research is more exploratory and focuses on smaller numbers and depth data. Qualitative data is mostly collected using conversation, and unstructured and semi-structured interviews.
Quantitative data, the corresponding are; structured observations, interviews and surveys, and attitude scaling.
By contrast, qualitative research emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data(Bryman, 2010). Qualitative research data is collected from focus groups, in-depth interviews and observations.
Qualitative research can be used to understand more deeply consumers' attitudes towards purchase decision. But qualitative research is hard to analyse, and evaluate. Also, small number of target audiences cannot be represented whole population.
For this research, a quantitative study is better because of the need for several different views on the questions and to decrease the factor of that different people think differently.
3.8 Research Strategy
The decision of which strategy to use can be guided by the form of research question, the degree of control needed of behavioural events and if the focus is on current or historical events (Yin, 2003). The different choices of strategies available are; experiment, survey, case-study, grounded theory, ethnography and action research (Saunders et al, 2000).
Experiments are commonly used in natural sciences and psychology, and are characterized by for example the introduction of planned changes on the variables in the experiment, and control of the other variables (Saunders et al, 2000). Surveys allow for the gathering of large quantities of data from a population in an economically efficient way (Saunders et al, 2000).
Saunders et al (2000) also describe this method as having the advantage of that the analysis of the data will allow for easy comparison between the respondents. A case study is especially useful for gaining rich and detailed data (Saunders et al, 2000). They also state that case-studies are particularly good to use when asking how, what and why questions (ibid).
Grounded theory is based on that a data collection is performed without the previous construction of a theoretical framework (Saunders et al, 2000). The initially gathered data is then used to make predictions that then are tested in the later stages of the data collection (Saunders et al, 2000). Moreover, the purpose of ethnography is defined by Saunders et al (2000) in the following way; "The purpose is to interpret the social world the research subjects inhabit in the same way in which they interpret it" (Saunders et al, 2000, p.95). They also state that ethnography is not commonly used in business research (ibid). Action research is however dedicated to researching the management of change, and the researcher often must participate in the setting where the change occurs. (Saunders et al, 2000).
At first, action research, grounded theory, ethnography and experiments were discarded from the planning because of the mismatch between these methods and the purpose of research. After this, the search for a method with a match between the purpose of research and the characteristics of the method started. In table 2 below, these different criterions for the use of a survey are presented.
3.9 Data Collection Methods
Bradley stated that the term 'primary data' can describe information which is collected for a special purpose. On the other hand, secondary data has already collected by someone else for their purposes(Bradley, 2007).
3.9.1 Primary data
When executing a quantitative method of data collection, the most common way of collecting data is through the use of questionnaires as it gives greater opportunity to gather information from a large number of respondents without a great amount of resources (Johannessen & Tufte, 2007; Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2000). For the empirical research a self-completion questionnaire was deemed appropriate. This is because the research was conceptualised around obtaining information from, or about, a defined set of people or population; namely online community users (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe, 2002).
There are generally two ways of conducting a questionnaire: through a self-completion questionnaire or a type of structured interview assisted by the interviewer. A self-completion questionnaire is, as the name suggests, a questionnaire where the respondent answers the questions themselves unassisted. This is in contrast to an interviewer assisting the questionnaire process by, for example reading the questions and marking up the responses as conducted in structured interviews (Christensen et al, 2001). As the research aims to understand online users, the internet was the natural medium in order to reach the desired target group. Therefore it was clear that the questionnaire would be designed as a self-completion questionnaire given that assisting the questionnaire process through structured interviews would be difficult to execute via the internet.
3.9.2 Secondary data
Secondary data is formed of paper documents such as books, special reports, government produced records, and internet sources.
Secondary data can help to combine it with other facts. Therefore, secondary data it good for enhance understanding of results and to confirm results(Bradley, 2007).
Secondary data called as desk research, these can be searched from various sources any time. Therefore, this research can give time and cost beneficial to researchers.
On the other hand, secondary research has limitations such as irrelevant to the research. But secondary research can gives general ideas of the research theories and can help save the time.
In this research, following secondary data can be used to understand and enhance research.
My research is involved 'consumer behaviour', 'brand loyalty' and 'online communities'. Therefore, theories from literatures those books will be relevant to my study. Also those theories can gives general ideas about this research. Moreover, theories about culture also can be used to understand Korean culture. Books have many advantages, for example, books are easy to access, and easy to get information which is relevant to my study. Meanwhile, printed books are heavy and sometimes only can access old ones. But, nowadays, online books are widely disseminated. Internet technology helped to access those resources without any restriction of place. Internet books are very useful to get information easily. For my research books are important to understand the theories. Books can be found in the libraries and internet.
Previous researches such as online communities, consumer behaviour, cosmetics, and decision making processes can be used as a literature review and as a guideline for my research. These previous researches can be found in the internet journal web sites such as ebsco host. Also, written journals can be found from the libraries. Journals have many advantages; journals include recent researches and recent information. Therefore, journals can give new ideas and new information for my research. On the other hand, some journals are not be accessed easily. Thus, there is a limitation for access. But, journals are useful for research to get recent research finding and applied theories to wide my research.
3.9.3. Online database
Internet sources can be categorised as online database. Information search engines such as google, yahoo, or blogs and company web sites will be used for gathering secondary data. These secondary data will help guide my study and enhance understand the research areas.
3.9.4. Statistical database
Published government database, government web sites, and the companies' figures will be used for secondary data. These data will give a real figures about the industry which I will study and support my research as an evidence.
3.10 Sampling and Questionnaire design
Sampling is the process of taking parts form a defined population in order to examine these parts, usually with the aim of making judgements about the parts of the population that have not been investigated(Bradley, 2010). Also, it has a major advantages compare with other methods which is that it usually cost saving and time saving because, it investigate small portion of the whole population. On the other hand, the major disadvantage is that the process cannot summarise every characteristic in that given population(Bradley, 2010).
This study identifies the target group of respondent which are 'Beautynet users'. Data collected from the designed questionnaires and these questionnaires is sent to the online community users through the internet. However, the sample size of this study is limited 300 users from the online community, because of limited research time and limited analysis time.
Returned questionnaire is analysed using statistical methods. Statistical methods are useful to understand the relationship and the user's behaviour patterns. Therefore, this method can explain the relationship between the online community and its influence purchase decision, and the relationship between the online community and brand loyalty.
3.10.2 Questionnaire design
The questionnaire was designed to collect the demographic information of the respondents covering age. Social class information includes education, occupation and income, (questions number 1, 2, 3, and 4) using multiple choice questions. According to Fisher (2007) this type of questions provides respondents with a choice of three to five options and asks them to choose one. This type of questions giving unambiguous options that is mutually exclusive. Authors also applied multiple choice questions to study the respondents' purchasing behavior in questions number 5 to see the frequency of purchasing makeup products, question number 6 to see how much money they spend on buying makeup and question number 7 asking respondents about type of makeup product they buy mostly of. Lastly, Likert scales was applied to ask respondents about their opinions and attitudes and to ask them to choose a position on a five-point scale between strongly agree and strongly disagree (Fisher, 2007, pp.195-196). A Likert scale was applied to question number 8-26 to study the respondents' attitude toward brands and their purchase decision.
3.11 Analysis of Data
In order to analyze the data collected through the survey, the numbers were first statistically sorted to facilitate the surveys different ways of thinking, and then further analyzed to find possible significant patterns. This process of making sense of the raw data was made with the help of the statistical computer software Excel, from which we could generate different tables and diagrams. The raw data, together with an overview of the results can be found in chapter four. The analysis found in this chapter had two purposes; initially t to help the readers to understand, and secondly help us as researchers. In order to make the gathered data more clear, it was coded with the help of Excel and made fit in a spreadsheet, as suggested by Saunders et al (2009).
3.12 Quality Standards
Validity and reliability are the two most important quality standards in research studies which this research aims to uphold a high standard of. Validity is concerned with how accurately a variable fits a concept, that is, through determining how accurately the instrument chosen measures the features intended to be measured (Bouma & Atkinson, 1999). According to Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe (2002) there are three ways of estimating validity namely (1) face validity: whether the instrument or its items are plausible; (2) convergent validity: the confirmation from comparing the instrument with other independent measurement procedures; and (3) validation by known groups: which is as suggested, comparing groups otherwise known to differ on the factor in question. The questionnaire was carefully constructed based on the models used in the research in order to achieve, as certain as possible, the intended results from the questions probed.
Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe (2002) recommend that tests for validity and reliability should be made at the pilot stage of an investigation, before the main phase of data collection. As such a pilot study has been conducted to ensure that the web-questionnaire is constructed to examine, as closely as possible, what it should examine. This was also initiated in order to secure that the questions would be interpreted correctly by the respondents thereby testing the validity of the questionnaire. In reality, it is not known whether all the questions were interpreted as intended, although a pilot study provides useful indications of problems in advance so that miss-interpretation can be minimised.
Reliability is concerned with the stability of the research (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe, 2002). As stated by Christensen et al (2001) a study should be able to be conducted a second time by other researchers and yield the same results if it has a high reliability. Since this research had been conducted with a social constructionist approach reliability is not particularly relevant to the quality standards. This is because a social constructionist approach is interpreted by the researcher's knowledge during the analysis process of the research. The personality of the researcher is also an influencing factor within the results. Therefore the research is limited in its ability to yield the same results if conducted a second time.
3.11 Research Limitations
The study is conducted within the limited time. Thus, the population of the target audience is limited to a certain number. Therefore there is a limitation to understand all online community members and their attitudes. Also, this study aims to find out the online community and its impact on purchase decision and brand loyalty. Therefore, this study only focused small parts of consumer behaviour. Thus, future research should be considers include some other areas of consumer behaviour and large numbers of target audience to get more reliable data.
The researcher has chosen the positivism philosophy for the research after given explanation of different kind of philosophy. While this research is about business problem, therefore, deductive theory has chosen to explain previous theories about business matter. Researcher has used quantitative method for the analysis of the data and the reason behind choosing is the population of Beautynet is too big to do qualitative method and quantitative method can be used to understand the target audience's behaviour patterns.
Primary data has collected by survey from Beautynet users, and secondary data was collected by using the relevant books, journals,
Most appropriate option for conducting the research is the descriptive type of research approach. The data collected for this research is using both questionnaire and the secondary data from the books, journals, online database, and statistical database.